Drivers watch out – it’s pothole season!

Forget miles per hour – there’s now 6 potholes per mile!

Potholes – at best they’re a nuisance and at worst they’re a danger. Whether you try to avoid them, or you’re forced to drive over one, potholes pose a serious risk to motorists, other road users and even pedestrians, and can cause severe damage to your vehicle.

The latest figures show that not only are there more potholes blighting Britain’s roads, but the harm they’re causing is getting worse. With more claims coming in due to pothole damage, this is surely only causing more problems for an already tough insurance market, where premiums are higher than ever.

We’ve also had a bought of bad weather, just in time for ‘pothole season’ between January and February, and the freezing temperatures of winter are sure to make the situation worse. So, buckle up as we explore the full extent of the damage, how you can protect yourself against potholes and crucially, get them fixed!

Potholes – are they getting worse?

There are some 2.4 million potholes reported across England and Wales between January 2020 and December 2023. That’s about six potholes per mile on council-controlled roads, on average. The RAC’s pothole index indicates that motorists are now twice as likely to break down due to repeated wear caused by potholes, compared to 17 years ago.  

Admiral revealed that pothole claims rose by 40% between 2022 and 2023, with more than a third taking place between January and March. The average claim for this damage has risen from £2,378 in 2022 to £3,070 in 2023 (29%).

Potholes are caused by water freezing and thawing in cracks in the road, turning them into big dips and depressions on the road surface. With 40 million cars on Britain’s roads, there will of course be wear and tear to the tarmac. But the UK’s cold and wet climate means our roads are particularly susceptible to potholes. We haven’t seen potholes claims this frequent since 2018, when the Beast from the East caused a surge in claims. Now, in 2024, we’re having one of the coldest winters on record, with parts of Scotland predicted to reach -15°C. and this latest cold snap is sure to mean a rise in potholes across our roads.

Beyond damage to vehicles, potholes pose a real danger. Department for Transport (DfT) data shows that over 2,000 people have been seriously injured – including 94 killed – in accidents on badly maintained roads with potholes, loose gravel and unusual cambers in Britain since 2013.

And experts are now highlighting the vicious cycle of inadequate repairs. If a pothole is just simply patched, it’s liable to reappear, with even more damage caused. There needs to be a more permanent solution for Britain’s roads.

How to safely drive over potholes

Unfortunately, it’s easy to hit a pothole without seeing it first! Be extra careful after spells of rain followed by cold temperatures. You should also be wary of puddles, which can hide large potholes from view. If you’re driving in the dark, potholes can be even harder to spot, so make sure your windscreen and headlights are clear, to give you an unimpaired view of the road ahead.

If you can spot a pothole, it’s natural to want to avoid it the discomfort and potential damage by driving around it. However, you should only drive around a pothole if it is safe to do so. You need to consider other road users and pedestrians who could be affected if you swerve.

If you are unable to get around a pothole safely, try to slow down before you hit it. Don’t hit the brakes or swerve suddenly, as this can cause more damage to your tyres and be dangerous to other road users. Keep both hands on the steering wheel, as the impact of the pothole could affect your direction of travel.

In general, pay attention to your tyres. You should check your tyre pressure and tread regularly, looking out for any signs of bumps, bulges, or dents in the tyre wall, but especially if you recently hit a pothole.

Making a pothole insurance claim

If you do end up with damage to your vehicle because of a pothole, don’t stress! Comprehensive motor cover should cover you for pothole damage – but just as important is legal insurance. This will cover costs in pursuing the Local Authority if necessary. If you don’t have this already, simply give your local branch a call and they will be happy to talk you through this.

If you do find that your car is damaged, and you want to claim compensation – take notes and photos if it’s safe and possible to do so. If the pothole has already been reported by another road user, you should be able to make a claim with the agency that maintains that road.

Even if you decided not to make a claim from the government or on your insurance, it is a good idea to notify your insurer all the same.

Report potholes – no matter how small!

With potholes posing such a risk on the road, it’s clear more effort needs to go towards repairing them. The government recently announced an additional £8bn towards the cost of pothole repairs, but councils have estimated the required funding to be in the region of £14bn.

Have you spotted any rogue potholes? Or maybe you’ve you hit one yourself? Drivers, cyclists and other road users are urged to report every blemish, crack and crater they see, no matter how small, to highlight the crumbling state of UK roads and challenge councils to repair their infrastructure.

You can report potholes via the GOV.UK website, which should take you through to the corresponding local authority. Now’s the time to act, to help others and help yourself be able to drive more smoothly, and more safely!

Pop into your local branch

If you’ve got queries about what’s covered by your policy or making a claim, our experts are here to help! Simply search Howden Insurance, visit your local branch or give our advisors a ring.

You’ll also be able to speak to our branch experts about our new Money Savings eBook. You see, we’re on a mission to not only help you save money on your insurance, but also on your shopping, energy bills and more! Click here to download your copy for FREE.

Sources: This Is Money, The AA, RAC Foundation, The Telegraph, BBC News, the Guardian

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