How big is the pothole problem in the UK?
If you lust after the thrill of airplane turbulence, you can often recreate it by driving down one of Britain’s many pothole-covered roads (though we wouldn’t recommend it).
While it can be difficult to keep your car in top condition as you skilfully avoid potholes big enough to be seen from space, spare a thought for the 1 in 3 drivers in the UK who report that their car, van or motorcycle has been damaged by potholes in the last two years. New research (AA-Populus Driver Poll of more than 17,000 members, Dec 2016) has found that this included damage to tyres and bodywork, and has even led to crashes.
When your car is damaged by a pothole it can be a real pain, leaving you spending time and money on repairs or chasing claims for damage. While potholes can be minimised with proper highways maintenance schemes, unfortunately they aren’t 100% preventable as temperature and water ingress into the road surface undermines the structure.
The AA’s survey found that only 1 in 5 of people report potholes. Reporting them can help them get fixed more quickly, if the council doesn’t know about it, they won’t know it needs to be repaired. If you have a local road that’s badly damaged, here’s some steps on reporting it in the UK.
Potholes by the numbers
The research also revealed some eye-opening statistics about how much damage is caused by potholes and how people feel about them being fixed:
- Overall 32% of drivers have experienced vehicle damage caused by potholes in the last two years.
- Damage is most likely in Scotland where 37% report damage and least likely in Northern Ireland (24%).
- Older drivers seem to be the best at avoiding potholes with only 25% of over-65s reporting vehicle damage. The rate is almost twice as high (42%) among the youngest (18-24 year old) drivers.
- 51% of people surveyed have seen bad potholes locally, but not reported them.
- 40% would report a pothole if they knew how to do it.
- In another survey, when asked if they would volunteer to fill potholes themselves – 20% of people said they would if it was allowed by the local council. (AA/Populus survey of 20,055 members, Feb 2017)
How to report potholes
It’s the duty of your local British council to fix potholes on neighbourhood roads. Here’s how to go about reporting one to the council:
- Make a note of the specific location of the pothole, i.e. not just the name of the road, but how far up it is based on a house number, or a nearby landmark.
- Find contact details for your local council. You can go straight to their website, or pop the relevant postcode into the government’s ‘Report a Pothole’ page.
- Add the details. Some councils have interactive maps, where you can drop a pin to locate the pothole. Others have a contact form asking for more details.
There are also independent websites that create user-generated maps of potholes. So, if you’re feeling generous, you might want to give your fellow drivers a heads-up. They may not always be up-to-date though, so you shouldn’t rely on them in place of official channels.
If you’ve already experienced damage to your car, you can claim from your council for pothole damage. You’ll need to collect evidence to apply for compensation. The defect in the road also needs to be a certain size to count as a pothole. This varies from council to council, but a depth of more than 40mm (about the size of two pound coins) and a width similar to a dinner plate, is usually the minimum. It also depends on how busy or critical the road is – a pothole on a quiet road might need to be quite noticeable, before it gets repaired. If you feel the council have neglected their duty to keep roads safe, you have the right to make a pothole claim.
Staying safe on roads with pothole damage
You shouldn’t have to change your driving too much if you’re on a road that has potholes – just slow down and keep your distance from cars in front, in case they swerve or brake suddenly due to a pothole. This also gives you a clear view of the road surface ahead.
If you see a pothole ahead slow down and steer to avoid driving over it if you can. Do not to swerve suddenly or brake sharply to dodge a pothole as you could find yourself causing a bigger accident.
Potholes can be even more dangerous for cyclists, who can suffer serious and even deadly injuries. Expect cyclists to steer around potholes and to ride well out from the kerb where potholes are numerous.