UK drivers are now 1.5 times more likely to experience pothole damage than they were 15 years ago
The RAC’s roadside recovery patrols attended a third more pothole-related breakdowns in 2023 than the year prior, the company has said.
Its patrols attended a total of 29,377 breakdowns last year for faults caused by potholes, such as damaged springs and dampers and bent wheels. This is roughly equivalent to 80 incidents per day.
According to the RAC, UK drivers are now 1.5 times more likely to experience pothole damage than they were 15 years ago.
The RAC’s head of policy, Simon Williams, blamed the rise on the underfunding of local authorities.
He said: “Local councils have been cash-strapped for years, due to lower road maintenance budgets, causing roads across the country to fall into disrepair and leaving drivers fighting for compensation when their vehicles are inevitably damaged.”
The RAC’s findings come months after it warned that the rate of road resurfacing across the UK had fallen to its lowest level in five years.
It said in September that there was a 29% reduction in the number of miles of road completely resurfaced from 2017/2018 to 2021/2022. In total, 1588 miles were resurfaced in 2017/2018, compared with 1123 miles in 2021/2022.
It also found that, of the 153 road authorities sampled by the Department for Transport (DfT), 31% didn't carry out resurfacing works, while 51% didn't carry out surface-dressing work, wherein the lifespan of a road is extended without the need for full resurfacing.
Surface dressing itself was also found to be down on 2017/2018 levels by 34%.
Council areas found to resurface the highest proportion of their roads were Kent, freshening up 29 miles of its 502-mile A-road network, and Southend-on-Sea (in Essex), at 21 miles. Lincolnshire surface dressed most of its A-roads, at 50 miles out of 661.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak pledged in November to resolve the issue of potholes, assigning £8.3 billion in funding for local roads maintenance.
The money, diverted from the controversial HS2 rail project, is claimed by Westminster to be sufficient for resurfacing some 5000 miles of road over the next 11 years.
It's the biggest road-specific fund ever announced in the UK.
Williams said in November that the funding should “go a considerable way to bringing our roads back to a fit-for-purpose state”.
Edmund King, president of the AA, echoed this sentiment: “Perilous roads blighted by potholes are the number-one concern for drivers and a major issue for bikers, cyclists and pedestrians.
"So far this year, the AA has attended more than 450,000 pothole-related breakdowns. The damage caused can be a huge financial burden for drivers but is also a major safety risk for those on two wheels.
“The £8.3bn plan can make a considerable difference in bringing our roads back to the standards which road users expect, especially if councils use the cash efficiently to resurface our streets.
"As well as safer roads, eliminating potholes gives confidence to people wanting to cycle and instils pride of place within local communities.”
Additional reporting by Jonathan Bryce