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Potholes surge due to summer washout

Written By Richard Aucock

Potholes surge due to summer washout

Britain’s increasingly broken roads are causing a surge in pothole-related breakdowns with local councils blaming wet weather for being unable to repair them.

Data from the AA Pothole Index shows that at the peak of summer, there were just over 50,000 pothole-related breakdowns – a hefty increase of a fifth compared to the same month last year.

In the first seven months of the year, the AA attended a whopping 362,172 pothole-related incidents. This puts 2023 on track to be the third worst year for pothole breakdowns.

The growth in potholes is being blamed on the summer washout. “During the summer months, councils would be hoping for long stretches of dry weather to fix roads ahead of the winter months,” said AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens.

The motoring organisation is now hoping that councils catch up with repairs as the weather belatedly improves.

Cousens also called for more funding to repair Britain’s roads. ‘With 2023 looking to be one of the worst years on record for pothole damage, we need to see more investment in local roads maintenance.

“As well as the financial damage to vehicles, at this time of year we also see more cyclist and motorbike riders on the roads, where the damage can sadly be fatal.”

Deep pothole
Hitting a pothole can damage tyres, wheels and even your car's steering system.

What to do if your car hits a pothole

If you hit a deep pothole, even at low speed, you could damage your tyres, wheels and steering alignment. While it’s unlikely to warrant a car insurance claim, you could claim compensation from the local council.

Here’s what to do if your car does whack into a particularly bad pothole.

Check for damage

The AA advises motorists to pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so, and visually inspect for damage to wheels and tyres. It’s also worth feeling for any vibrations while driving, and checking the steering centres properly, and that the car doesn’t pull to one side.

Take notes

Information is power if you want to make a claim for pothole damage. Return to the scene and take notes or sketches – and, if it’s safe, photographs. Try to give some sense of scale, by including a shoe or drinks bottle in the picture. And include details of exactly where the pothole was, including the road name, town and its position on the road.

How to claim if you hit a pothole

Motorists are being urged to make a claim for damage caused by a pothole – but to give it a good chance of success, the AA has some advice on what drivers need to do.  

Report the pothole

It’s important to report potholes to the local council, city or borough council. If you’re in England and Wales, use a postcode checker to find the right local authority. Remember that Highways England manages motorways and A roads. In Wales, report to Traffic Wales, and report potholes in Scotland online through My Gov Scotland. In Northern Ireland, use the NI Direct website.

Make your claim

You need to write to the local council responsible for the road to claim compensation. Make sure you include all the information you’ve collected, including receipts for any repairs. Do remember that local authorities can’t be held responsible for potholes they don’t know about, which is why it’s so important to report potholes immediately.

The AA adds that potholes have cost councils more than £3.7 million in compensation over the past 18 months – even though repairing a pothole only costs an average of £40.

“We think that local authorities cold have filled in around 94,000 potholes for that money.”

AA president Edmund King added that “in the context of pothole compensation, it’s a case of throwing money down a hole”.

Because the summer has been so wet, local councils say they've been unable to keep up with running repairs for potholes, leading to a huge increase in numbers. 

The AA has calculated it costs local authorities around £40 to fix a pothole. 

The AA attends more than 50,000 pothole-related breakdowns each month – and rival motoring organisation the RAC has calculated there are around 1.2 million to 1.5 million potholes in the UK. 

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