Pothole breakdown stats highlight ‘desperate state’ of UK roads

10.44 | 20 April 2021 |

Image: RAC

Many drivers are finding themselves having to use roads that, in places, better resemble the surface of the Moon.

That’s according to the RAC, whose patrols attended 4,694 pothole-related breakdowns in the first three months of 2021, the equivalent of 52 drivers every day.

The Q1 2021 figure represents a three-fold increase from the last quarter of 2020 – when it stood at 1,461 – and is the largest rise between quarters the RAC has ever seen.

The RAC says the figure is made even more stark by the fact the country has spent much of the first quarter in lockdown with lighter than normal traffic volumes on roads.

The motoring organisation says the number of call outs highlights the parlous state of many roads – and puts into ‘sharp focus’ the ‘enormous task’ now facing local authorities to bring road surface standards up to a reasonable level.

In total, 2.4% of all call-outs attended by RAC patrols between January and March were for pothole-related breakdowns – up from 1.6% during the same period in 2020.

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “These figures highlight what is a genuinely ‘uncomfortable truth’ for both road users as well as local and national governments – that in many cases, the condition of many roads is now in a desperate state. 

“Put simply, we’ve just had the largest quarterly rise in the number of pothole-related breakdowns on record. And the problem risks getting even worse as pandemic restrictions are eased and the roads get busier.

“Back in January we feared the colder winter risked causing further extensive damage to the roads, and it’s clear this is now exactly what has happened. 

“Many drivers are finding themselves having to use roads that in places better resemble the surface of the Moon and, as our figures show, thousands are suffering from unnecessary and, no doubt, costly breakdowns caused by potholes.”

Meanwhile, the RAC Pothole Index, a long-term measure of the condition of roads which is adjusted for weather and seasonal effects, also increased in the first quarter of 2021 for the first time since early 2018 and now stands at 1.48, up from 1.44 as of the end of December 2020. 

This suggests that road quality is now in a declining state and means drivers are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to break down as a result of hitting potholes today, than they were when the RAC first started collecting data back in 2006.



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