The Cost of Potholes

By: Lisa Harper

With the recent stint of bad weather it’s not surprising we’re seeing an increase in the number of potholes on UK roads. Potholes are formed when water gets into road surface and freezes. This causes the road surface to contract and creates cracks in the surface. When the road thaws out the surface expands causing the cracks to break up. Cars constantly travelling over this cracked surface further weaken the road and lead to the formation of potholes.

In Britain potholes are a big problem with the Asphalt Industry Alliance figures indicating that over 24,000 miles of road are currently in need of repair. Whilst the total shortfall required to fix current potholes is estimated to be around £556 million. Even if local authorities had this money it is estimated it would take 12 years to catch up with the current backlog of potholes. Further adding to the problem is the long time between road resurfacing; most British roads are only resurfaced once every 54 years.

The Damage Caused by Potholes

Potholes generally cause damage to car tyres , wheels and suspension, however low vehicles can also suffer damage to the body and underside of the vehicle. Common issues include buckled wheels, lumps in the tyre, cracked alloys and issues with the tracking and wheel balancing.

damage caused by potholes

How to Avoid Damage to Your Car?

Try to manoeuvre around potholes wherever possible. If you must go over a pothole slow down on your approach and do not brake whilst travelling over a pothole. Braking whilst travelling over a pothole can cause your tyre to slam into the edge of the pothole with more force than if you just travelled over it. Travelling too fast over a pothole can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and ultimately result in an accident, so always approach potholes with caution.

Claiming for Pothole Damage

If your car is damaged as a result of a pothole it is possible to claim for some or all of the repairs from the authority responsible for maintaining the road. ‘Moneysavingexpert’ have a comprehensive guide on claiming, however we’ve summarised the main steps below:

- Gather as much information as possible. Take pictures of the pothole if possible and make sure you get a full report from your mechanic regarding the damage.

- Most councils then have a claim form which can usually be downloaded from their website. Fill this in including as much detail as possible and submit it.

- At this stage be prepared to negotiate, the council may not offer the full amount of the repair bill depending on circumstances and they may reject the claim completely. If you’re not happy with the outcome you can make a full claim but it can be a time consuming process.

- If you did decide to continue then the next step would be to request the road repair policy and inspection history from the council under the Freedom of Information Act. Once you receive this information you need to go through it thoroughly. Look for any ways in which the authority has failed to meet its own and national policy and could therefore be liable for the damage to your car.

- Once you’ve built up a case submit your claim. Some authorities will still reject the claim at this stage or fail to meet your expectations. Your next option would be to take the case to the small claims courts.

reapairs to potholes

How You Can Help?

A study conducted by the AA in 2017 found that only 1 in 5 people report potholes. This is a real problem as councils don’t have the resources to patrol all roads, so information from the public can be vital. Reporting potholes is easy, most councils have a simple system on their website allowing you to report the problem or you can visit the government’s report a pothole page. Remember most local authorities will only consider it a pothole if it is over 40mm deep.

It’s important you are as specific as possible when reporting the location of the pothole. Don’t just report the road, check out your surroundings and try to find landmarks or house numbers to pinpoint the approximate location on the road.

There are also numerous independent website that encourage people to report potholes and are particularly popular in the cycling community due to the risk potholes present to cyclists. One of the most popular ‘fillthathole’ has recently ranked the 10 worst local authorities with potholes. Do you live in one of the top 10?

1. Surrey Country Council
2. Kent County Council
3. Hertfordshire County Council
4. Essex County Council
5. Lancashire County Council
6. Glasgow City Council
7. Buckinghamshire County Council
8. Hampshire County Council
9. Oxfordshire County Council
10. Cheshire East Council

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