Recent figures from Halfords Autocentres have revealed that fleet operators have been forced to fork out more than £215 million on vehicle repairs in the last year alone due to damage from potholes and poorly-maintained road surfaces. Almost 1.5 million vehicles suffer steering and suspension damage as a result of potholes. In fact over the last 12 months, figures indicate that one driver every 30 seconds has an encounter with a pothole _ with many fleet companies having to foot average repair bills of £147 per vehicle to get them back on the road. Pothole damage appears to be more prominent in the Midlands where fleets have been forced to pay upwards of £33 million on repairs, closely followed by fleets in the North East (£31 million). Drivers and fleets least likely to encounter costly problems were found in Wales and the East of England, with pothole-related damage amounting to £10 million and £12 million respectively _ although reduced traffic levels may be the key contributing factor rather than better quality of road surfaces. Andrew Huntly, business development director for Halfords Autocentres, said: "Even hitting a small pothole can easily damage wheels, tyres and affect steering alignment. "With the cost of modern alloy wheels and high performance tyres, such seemingly minor damage can quickly lead to a bill of around £500. "However, serious steering and suspension problems are becoming an increasingly common occurrence. "From buckled anti-roll bars to smashed shock absorbers, the pothole pandemic is exacerbated by two main factors _ the inability of local authorities to keep pace with highway maintenance and the componentry of modern cars which often requires the replacement of several inter-related parts and drives up the cost of each individual repair."