Pothole damage to cars has more than doubled in the last 10 years, according to a study by the RAC.
Pothole-related damage accounted for 0.9% of all calls to the RAC in the 12 months to June 2016, compared to 0.4% during the 12 months to June 2006. Those percentages equate to thousands of calls each month from motorists requiring repairs to shock absorbers or springs.
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “This analysis suggests that the quality of the UK's roads suffered a steady decline from the start of 2007 through to the end of 2009, presumably due to lack of investment in maintenance and resurfacing during worsening economic times.
“Since then, injections of short-term funding have addressed the immediate aftermath of periods of extreme weather but have not been sufficient to tackle the underlying problem.”
RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said the organisation planned to maintain this “pothole index” going forward, in order to keep a closer eye on progress by the authorities in reducing damage. He said the problems were largely on local roads, which are maintained by local authorities. Strategic roads, such as motorways and A-roads, are looked after by Highways England, Transport Scotland, Welsh trunk road agencies and TransportNI in Northern Ireland, which unlike local authorities have guaranteed funds from the government to tackle maintenance.
“There is a big discrepancy between the money that the industry thinks is needed to fix the pothole problem and the money that’s been made available so far,” Dennis said. “From our perspective, and from our members’ perspective, the amount of money that’s being made available to sort the problem out isn’t significant enough.
He added that pothole damage was particularly high in Scotland – accounting for up to 2.7% of all RAC call-outs - and said that while poorer weather north of the border could be in part responsible, motorists should still hold authorities to account over a lack of investment in repair and preventative maintenance. The lowest percentage of pothole-related callouts was in North London.
“It’s almost frustrating that the debate is stuck at fixing potholes, whereas if the money is spent now for preventative maintenance, to resurface properly, there’s a much better return on investment there,” Dennis said.
Louise Wallis, head of business development at the National Franchised Dealers Association, said she welcomed the research the RAC has been doing.
“It’s not something we have statistics or figures about, but there is anecdotal suggestion that there is a problem. It’s something that people talk about more than they have done in the past, so there is probably some substance behind it.
“We’d be interested to see what [the RAC’s] surveys and statistics show. If it’s showing that there’s a problem then it would be good to get something done about it.”
The RAC has recently released a mobile app that uses your smartphone’s GPS and camera to send a photo and the location of a pothole to the relevant local authority.