Back to Blog

‘Concerning’ rise in potholes revealed

As many road users are all too aware, potholes have the potential to damage vehicles and bikes, and to cause potentially serious accidents. Worryingly, experts have suggested that these road defects are on the increase in the UK.

According to the RAC, it attended 11% more pothole-related breakdowns during the last quarter of 2017 compared with the same period the previous year. Chief engineer at the organisation, David Bizley, suggested that this increase is likely to be “met with concern” by drivers.

A sharp rise

The RAC revealed it was called to 2,830 member breakdowns that could be attributed to potholes during the final three months of 2017. This was up from 2,547 during the same three-month period in 2016. The type of damage recorded to vehicles in these cases included broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers and distorted wheels.

As well as rising year-on-year, there was also an increase in the number of pothole-related breakdowns between the final two quarters of last year compared with 2016. Whereas in 2017 the increase between the third and fourth quarters was 45%, the previous year this figure was 38%.

In addition, the RAC’s Pothole Index, which is a yearly rolling measure of the proportion of pothole-related breakdowns compared with 2006 (corrected for improving vehicle reliability and seasonal weather trends), rose at the end of 2017 for the third quarter in a row.

The RAC suggested that the quality of road surfaces may have been affected by the higher levels of rainfall seen during the last quarter of 2017 and the increase in days of frost. Disturbingly for road users, the organisation noted that there’s the potential for a further significant increase in the number of potholes by spring if the weather’s especially cold or wet over the coming months.

Pot Hole Accidents

Going backwards

Responding to the figures, Mr Bizley said that following a number of years in which the quality of highway surfaces seemed to be improving, the latest RAC analysis suggests that “we have gone backwards”.

He added that the organisation welcomed an announcement by the chancellor in the Autumn Budget that extra funding would be provided to fix potholes. However, he cautioned that poor weather could see continued deterioration of roads and even more surface defects appearing.

Mr Bizley went on to describe potholes as a “menace for drivers” and other road users, pointing out that they pose a major safety risk. He remarked: “Anyone who has driven into one will know it can be a frightening experience, not to say a potentially costly one - distorted wheels, broken springs and shock absorbers can be very expensive problems to put right. And for those on two wheels it can be genuinely life-threatening.”

The expert called for local authorities to be given long-term, ring-fenced funding from central government to enable them to improve the quality of highways and to ensure they’re fit for purpose.

How council drivers are playing a role in combating potholes

The Government is looking at ways to monitor and improve roads across the country. A recent BBC report highlighted one initiative funded by the Department for Transport that’s gathering real-time data on road surface quality in Thurrock, Essex. The project has seen a special pothole camera installed on a bin lorry. As the driver of the lorry covers his route across the area five days a week, images are relayed to engineers who monitor where existing surface defects are and where they’re likely to develop in the future.

As many councils already use on-board camera systems on their bin lorries for the purposes of health and safety, it’s hoped that these fleets could become an important tool in efforts to combat potholes across the country.

What to do if you suffer an accident due to a pothole

If you suffer an accident because of a pothole, it’s important that you know what to do. If possible, you should follow these steps:

  • If you’re injured, make sure you visit your GP or a hospital to seek medical advice.
  • Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses at the scene.
  • Take photographs of the scene of the accident, ensuring you capture images of the pothole itself, as well as any personal injuries you’ve suffered.
  • Only inform the local authority about the incident once you’ve collected photographic evidence, and if it’s a serious accident, after the scene’s been witnessed by your solicitor and/or the police.

Claiming compensation

Local authorities have a legal duty to ensure that people are safe when they’re using public roads. If you suffer personal injuries or damage to your property because of a pothole or another problem with a road and you believe the council failed in its duty of care, you may be entitled to compensation.

Contact our personal injury solicitors at Slater and Gordon Lawyers to find out how to make a claim. Our experts will guide you through the process and help you to secure the compensation you deserve.

For more information, don’t hesitate to call our road accident solicitors on freephone 0808 175 8000. Alternatively, contact us online and we’ll call you at a time that’s convenient.