The RAC’s Pothole Index indicates that breakdowns attributable to potholes increased 11% in the last quarter of 2017 compared to the same period last year. This is the third successive quarter that the Index has risen.
RAC data showed 2,830 member breakdowns between October and December 2017 caused by distorted wheels or damaged shock absorbers and suspension springs, likely as a result of poor quality road surfaces.
The Index is a rolling measurement of the share of pothole-related breakdowns since 2006, corrected for seasonal weather and improving vehicle standards. Data from 2006 provides the base figure of 1.00, with higher figures representing increased likelihood of the vehicle of an RAC member breaking down being attributable to potholes.
In the fourth quarter of 2017, this figure stood at 2.59 – the highest recorded since the second quarter of 2016, indicating a potentially worsening standard for road conditions over the last 18 months.
While it is worth noting that the figure is well below the 2010 Q2 peak of 3.5, the results nevertheless suggest that higher rainfall and increased levels of frost during the end of 2017 compared to 2016 contributed to worsening road surfaces.
Data shows the total number of pothole faults recorded across all quarters of 2017 has outstripped the same equivalent periods of 2016, supporting the idea that road conditions have deteriorated in the last year alone.
The RAC has warned that the number of potholes could rise sharply by springtime if further wet and cold weather is seen in the coming months.
David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: “For the majority of drivers, these latest statistics are likely to be met with concern. After several years in which the surface quality of our roads appeared to be improving, the latest analysis of RAC breakdown data suggests that for the third successive quarter we have gone backwards.
“The higher rainfall in the last quarter compared to 2016 and the snowy and icy conditions that much of the country experienced into December are likely to be significant factors.
“We were obviously grateful that the Chancellor announced additional funds for fixing potholes in the autumn Budget but if we get more ice and snow or further heavy rainfall than normal in the next couple of months, there is a risk of further deterioration of road surfaces – and even more potholes appearing in the areas worst affected by the weather.
“Put simply, potholes are a menace for drivers and indeed for all road users. They represent a serious road safety risk and anyone who has driven into one will know it can be a frightening experience, not to say a potentially costly one – distorted wheels, broken springs and shock absorbers can be very expensive problems to put right. And for those on two wheels it can be genuinely life-threatening.”
The RAC is suggesting that local authorities be provided with long-term, ring-fenced Government funding, enabling them to make UK roads fit for purpose and up to standard.
“Drivers contribute around £40bn of motoring-based taxation a year and many will feel that they are having to endure roads that are substandard and therefore getting poor value for money,” Bizley added.