Britain's Pothole Problem: How serious is it?
Britain's roads are blighted by potholes. Every year, vast resources are poured into addressing the problem – but local authorities face an ongoing struggle, because new potholes are being formed constantly.
Potholes are formed when the supporting material beneath the surface of a road is broken down. Water can become trapped in the resulting gap – and when that water freezes, it expands and pushes up against the road surface from beneath. Eventually, the surface gives way, and collapses into the gap, causing a hole.
A significant portion of vehicle damage in the UK is caused by contact with these holes. But funding to tackle the problem is shrinking. Around 1,123 miles of road were resurfaced in 2021-22 – a fall from 1,588 in 2017-18.
How serious is the problem?
For certain road users, the problem is disproportionately severe. For cyclists, around 15% of road accidents are caused by a defect in the road surface. Data from the RAC in 2020 revealed that around 1,766 drivers suffered a pot-hole-related accident between April and June of 2020. Research by Citroen revealed that around a third of all motorists have had to pay for repairs for damage inflicted by potholes.
An expensive fix
So, why isn't this problem being tackled in advance? Put simply, because it would be very expensive. The backlog would take around £14 billion to entirely clear, which is an increase of around £1.5 billion from 2022. While Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has pledged around £200 million toward dealing with potholes, the truth is that there is still a significant difference between investment and results.
How dangerous are potholes?
If your car crosses over the top of a pothole, then the front will collapse. If the pothole is deep enough, this can feel a little bit like going over a tall ramp. The damage inflicted on the car can be significant – but you might also suffer a personal injury. The danger is exacerbated in cases when the driver subsequently loses control of the vehicle. Whiplash, and worse, can result.
For those in this position, it might be possible to take legal action against the responsible local authority. A good personal injury solicitor will be of assistance.
Of course, in order to fix a problem, the local authority in question will need to be made aware of its existence. If you notice a pothole in the vicinity, then you can report it. When the pothole is on an English motorway, you'll be reporting to Highways England. When it's on a smaller road, or you're reporting the problem in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you'll instead be dealing with the local council. If you report the problem and it isn't fixed, then the relevant authority may be liable for damage inflicted by the pothole.