Drivers face plague of potholes as freezing conditions cause roads to crumble

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Insurers and motorists’ groups predict surge in damage to roads and vehicles in coming months

Drivers have been warned of a potential plague of potholes as recent weather creates the perfect conditions for failing road surfaces.

Insurers and motoring groups have warned that motorists are likely to face an increase in potholes and expensive vehicle damage as new data shows increases in the number of breakdowns and claims related to road damage.

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Wet spells before and after Christmas along with freezing conditions in December and the current sub-zero temperatures are the “perfect recipe” for more potholes to start appearing, according to the RAC, with water creeping into cracks before freezing and expanding, causing the road surface to crumble.

RAC patrols attended nearly a quarter (23%) more pothole-related breakdowns in the last three months of 2022 compared to the previous three months and figures from insurer Admiral show that January to March are the worst months for pothole claims.

Callouts and insurance claims range from punctured tyres and damaged shock absorbers to broken suspension springs and distorted wheels. The RAC said it attended 20 such call outs every day at the end of 2022 - the highest for that period since 2019.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The wet weather we’ve had both before and after the coldest start to winter in 12 years in December is the perfect recipe for potholes to start peppering the roads. We fear that by the spring, drivers will be plagued by a plethora of potholes which makes journeys uncomfortable and frustrating or, worse still, could lead to very expensive garage repair bills.

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“It’s also important to remember that potholes are so much more than just an annoyance, they are a true road safety danger, especially for those on two wheels.”

Insurer Admiral reports that pothole-related claims have risen by a third (34%) since 2016 and predicts that the current conditions could create a spike similar to that seen after the Beast from the East, when claims jumped by 102%.

The cost of repairing pothole damage has also risen in recent years and is now 16% higher than in 2016, according to the insurer.

Lorna Connelly, head of claims at Admiral, said: “Anyone who drives will be familiar with that sudden ‘clunk’ from roads that are plagued with potholes. But potholes are more than just an inconvenience, they can also cause costly damage to your vehicle.

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“January, February and March are the worst time of year for pothole claims. In fact pothole related claims are 43% higher in these months than average, as road surfaces become unsettled by colder temperatures. In years with extreme cold snaps we always see an increase, for example in 2018 when we had the Beast from the East, this increased from 700 to over 1,000 claims. We expect the thaw following the December cold snap will result in a spike in claims this year, too.”

The RAC’s latest Report on Motoring found that 86% of drivers have had to deliberately steer to avoid potholes over the past year, a figure that rises to 90% in rural areas but only falls to 81% of those in urban locations. Most drivers (55%) also rated pothole repairs in their local areas as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ and Lyes said it was “absurd” that authorities still had not properly tackled the issue.

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He commented: As many drivers will no doubt testify, there are too many occasions where potholes have been poorly patched up by cash-strapped councils which then return all too quickly. Councils are crying out for more funding to do a proper job in getting their roads up to a decent standard.

“With drivers still rating the ongoing poor state of the roads as one of their biggest motoring frustrations, they can only hope that 2023 is the year when the Government finally sits up, takes notice of Britain’s perpetual problem with potholes and comes up with a better way to solve it.”

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