In the past 12 months, potholes caused damage to vehicles costing a total of £915 million to repair, according to a study for Kwik Fit. That’s an increase of 34% on the figure of £684 million from two years ago.
The average cost of repairing damage to components, including tyres, wheels, suspension and bodywork, has risen only slightly – from £108.60 in 2016 to £111. However, the number of drivers whose vehicles have suffered damage has skyrocketed over the last 24 months – from 6.3 million drivers a year to 8.2 million – leading to the total bill for repairs increasing by £231 million.
According to the survey, some 70% of drivers say they have hit at least one pothole a week over the last 12 months, with a quarter (25%) hitting one every single day. Drivers in the north-west of the country have the worst experience, with over a third (36%) of drivers suffering a pothole impact on a daily basis.
Poor weather and visibility make potholes harder to see
Drivers give a combination of factors as the reasons for hitting pothole; 88% of drivers cited road or weather conditions, such as the pothole being hidden by a puddle or it being too dark to spot, but many (47%) also said they had to make a deliberate decision to hit the pothole as avoiding it would have compromised their own safety and that of other road users.
Almost one in ten drivers (9%) admitted that the impact was their own fault, as they were either not paying attention to the road surface or driving too fast to stop in time.
A quarter of drivers who have hit potholes over the last year have suffered costly damage to their car, with the most common repairs being to tyres (4.2 million), wheels (2.7 million), suspension (2.4 million) and bodywork (1.2 million).
Drivers overwhelmingly believe that the nation’s roads are deteriorating, with 76% saying that the road surfaces on their most frequently made journeys are in a worse condition than five years ago, with 52% saying they are significantly worse.
One in five local roads structurally poor
This mirrors the findings of the ALARM report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, also published today, which reveals that one in five local roads are now classed as ‘structurally poor’ – a 20% increase on last year.
The condition of the road network is having an impact on driver behaviour, some aspects of which are likely to make the situation even worse. One in eight drivers (12%) say they drive a longer route than the most direct journey as it has better road surfaces, thus adding unnecessary wear and tear to both road and vehicles, as well as using extra fuel; 1.5 million drivers say the poor road surfaces have caused them to switch their car to a more rugged vehicle such as an SUV or 4×4, while one million have bought a cheaper vehicle which they don’t mind getting damaged.
The impact on vehicles has also led to drivers changing their car maintenance habits; 5% of drivers say they buy cheaper tyres as the road surfaces damage them before the tread wears out. However, 1.5 million drivers (4%) do precisely the opposite, buying more expensive tyres which are better at coping with the poor condition of the roads. Over two million drivers (6%) say they have left damage to their car unrepaired as they are sure it will get damaged again soon.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, says: “The poor condition of the road network is hitting motorists’ wallets ever harder. Unfortunately, experience of past years has shown us that the recent cold weather will only make the problem worse and we are likely to see even more drivers suffering serious damage from impacts with potholes.
“It’s important to note that while sometimes a pothole will cause a blowout to a tyre, in many cases the damage is not immediately obvious.
“Often a pothole can cause a slow puncture, bulge on the inside tyre wall or hairline crack in the wheel rim, which only becomes evident days after the impact.”