RAC sees surprise increase in first quarter pothole-related breakdowns

Breakdowns caused by pothole damage rose by 63% in the first quarter of 2017, according to the RAC.

In total the breakdown provider dealt with more than 6,500 jobs between January and March 2017 that were likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces – such as broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels.

The last time so many pothole-related breakdowns were recorded was in the first quarter of 2015 when patrols were called out to nearly 6,900 such breakdowns. That quarter, however, saw both more frost days and rainfall than the equivalent period this year.

When considered in the context of all RAC breakdowns the share of pothole-related call-outs in Q1 2017 equated to 2.7% of all RAC jobs – this is the largest quarterly figure seen since the RAC’s pothole analysis began in 2006.

“Our figures sadly show a surprising and unwelcome first quarter rise in the number of breakdowns where the poor quality of the road surface was a major factor. We had expected a figure no worse than that recorded in the first quarter of 2016 (4,026) and it is very concerning that the roads, strangely, appear to have deteriorated in a mild, comparatively dry winter,” said RAC chief engineer David Bizley.

The rise in the share of pothole-related call-outs in 2017 may not tell the whole story because it can, in part, be put down to the RAC attending fewer breakdowns in a milder winter, especially those that could be deemed classic ‘cold weather’ breakdowns such as problems with car batteries.

The RAC Pothole Index, a 12-month rolling average of pothole-related breakdowns which is corrected to remove unrelated longer term effects of weather and improving vehicle reliability, currently stands at 2.08, its lowest value since the last quarter of 2008. This suggests that – looking at breakdowns over a much longer time period – the overall quality of the UK’s road surfaces is beginning to get better, though still well short of their condition a decade ago.


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