Currently reading: Breakdowns caused by potholes on the rise, warns RAC
Company’s roadside recovery patrols attended nearly 30,000 pothole-related incidents last year

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.

Pothole on kerbside

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.

Back to top

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

Charlie Martin

Charlie Martin Autocar
Title: Editorial Assistant, Autocar

As a reporter, Charlie plays a key role in setting the news agenda for the automotive industry. He joined Autocar in July 2022 after a nine-month stint as an apprentice with sister publication, What Car?. He's previously contributed to The Intercooler, and placed second in Hagerty’s 2019 Young Writer competition with a MG Metro 6R4 feature

He is the proud owner of a Fiat Panda 100HP, and hopes to one day add a lightweight sports car like a Caterham Seven or a Lotus Elise S1 to his collection.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Peter Cavellini 15 January 2024

This article again, roads aren't improving, the £8.3 billion wasn't an instant fix,it can't be,too many humans involved, too many hoops to jump through just to decide who is making the Tea, for the little time I spend driving on the route I take there so lay one tiny quarter mile section that is billiard table smooth no bumps no saggy bits, the rest is like an arcade game trying to dodge round holes on the road surface,and you can't always succeed doing that, I've been lucky not to have done damage or worse, no, it's get act together time for councils,start working better.

scotty5 13 September 2023

Cash strapped? All we need to do is to attract World Cycling events. Lots of lovely smooth roads up here in Central Scotland, or at least those roads which hosted the recent UCI World Championships. Money no object.

I'm gobsmacked at the condition of even major roads on those occasions I drive thru Glasgow. It's bad for motorists but must be deadly for cyclists. I just wouldn't cycle there. Some of those roads, especially on the Southside, look as if the RAF have been using them for bombing practise.

Do we really have to wait until someone dies before action is taken?

Andrew1 13 September 2023
Some of those smooth roads have posted signs saying "Built with EU funds". Just saying.
Peter Cavellini 13 September 2023

Yes UK Roads are bad, they're bad because cash strapped Councils can't afford to do a proper repair, they stick out roving repair hit squads who ,when they go to or see a hole throw a couple of shovels of Tar mix in tap in in place and leave, it's usually a hole again within 24hrs, so, how an this be improved?

gagaga 13 September 2023

Start by stopping the oft repeated myth that councils are cash-strapped.

They've plenty of money for their thinly-veiled politicing with rainbow crossings and diversity officers and transvestite storytime in the local library.  They have money, they choose to spend it elsewhwere.

My local council did just resurface the main road next to mine, and did it properly including grinding down a good 10-15cm of the existing before relaying.  But that was before the lib dems took over, so I don't expect it will be done again, ever.

Andrew1 13 September 2023
Because lib dems will have the council forever, or because tories won't do it either, ever again?