/ Motoring

Forget pothole warning signs, just fix the potholes!

Beaver road sign

Beavers crossing. Tarmac on the road. Road sign ahead. These are just a few road signs I’d rather see on our highways instead of the pothole suggestion being touted around by Confused.com.

A new sign to warn road users about potholes has been showcased this week by the price comparison site, which has both commissioned the design of the sign and is now petitioning the Department for Transport (DfT) to introduce it across the UK.

The rationale behind the pothole warning sign is that it can be placed at hotspots to warn drivers of the broken and uneven road surface.

Britain’s damaged roads have become a growing concern in the last couple of years, especially following the previous harsh winter conditions that plagued the tarmac on UK routes.

According to a survey conducted by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, drivers encounter around 10 potholes a day, with 90% of all those surveyed saying they’re not being alerted to these road imperfections. As a result, potholes are reportedly costing drivers £400 a year.

So something needs to be done, right? But surely it’s more logical to put pressure on local authorities to repair roads, rather than wasting time and money erecting masses of signs to warn drivers of potential potholes?

Wasted money when potholes are remedied

It’s claimed that funding for the repairs of these hazards in the road are lacking in the region of 50%, and as a result it will take 11 years to fix the backlog of potholes. Does Confused.com not think that the additional time and cost of producing and putting these signs in place might extend these delays? I would argue that it would.

These signs could also provide councils with a lucid excuse for not actually repairing the damaged roads at all, spending the money they do have on other issues. And what’s the point of the expenditure and man hours putting them up when they’ll be rendered useless once the potholes are repaired?

While I do support Confused.com’s incentive to make roads safer and reduce repair bills for motorists, I don’t think this quick fix is the best way to go about it.

As well as being a regular driver I’m also a keen motorcyclist, so I’m well aware of the dangers and costs potholes pose to anyone travelling on two wheels as well as four. But I firmly believe we need to maximise the safety of UK highways by fixing them correctly as quickly as possible, and not simply accepting them by adding signs to notify us where they are.

Health and safety roadside clutter

I also have an added concern – these pothole signs could spark a raft of health-and-safety mad signalling on our roads.

In my opinion, our highways are already littered with too many road signs. They’re sometimes unnecessarily distracting and actually make some locations, especially junctions, more dangerous. So the last thing we need is more roadside furniture.

Instead of designing, promoting and petitioning for this short term solution, I’d suggest Confused.com utilises its resources to pressure the DfT to fix the pothole problem in hand.

How should we deal with Britain’s pothole problem?

Force the potholes to be fixed (93%, 460 Votes)

Install warning signs for potholed roads (4%, 18 Votes)

Leave the potholes alone! (3%, 15 Votes)

Total Voters: 493

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Germans already do this by means of a “Straßenschaden” sign where the road ahead is broken.

However, this is rare in Germany as most of their roads, urban and extra-urban are very well maintained. Signs are erected to warn of the dangers before the road is actually fixed. Now that’s efficiency!

With English roads, the underinvestment means that they are in an ever decreasing circle of disrepair and the fact that we have waaaaay more roadsigns than Germany means that we are just bamboozled by the amount of information on the roadside.

Do we really need all these roadsigns? Are we really a nation if idiots that needs to be directed every step of the way?

Or is it merely the litigation that the Highways agency and Councils are scared of in case a moron somewhere does something stupid that society allows them to claim compensation for?


Very well said, dean.

Re the litigation. On the one and only occasion where I felt was due compensation, an official at the council explained why the council wouldn’t pay.

Apparently, Highways Agency guidelines state that
1) Councils should inspect all their roads at least once every 28 days.
2) Potholes identified by this exercise, or reported by the public, must be made good within three days.

My council follows these guidelines and keeps accurate records. So it is near impossible to prove negligence.

The devil is in the detail, of course. How bad does a pothole have to be before the three-day requirement kicks in?

Confused.com says:
1 July 2011

Hi Rob

Great to hear that you’re interested in this issue, as it’s clearly something we’re also passionate about.

We do agree that the only long-term solution is for potholes to be fixed, but the rate at which they’re being filled in simply isn’t fast enough. It’s costing UK drivers around £2.8 billion a year, and most UK roads are resurfaced only every 65 years or so. We feel that it’s in everyone’s best interest to be warned if a pothole is ahead to avoid potentially damaging the car.

You mentioned that it would cost councils time and money to erect the signs and remove them once a pothole had been fixed; at the moment, councils are paying over £50 million in compensation to motorists because of poorly maintained roads. If damages were avoided because drivers were aware that a road was potentially hazardous, the councils would be saving money – and could then spend more on rectifying the pothole problem quickly, and also for warning drivers of other problem areas by moving the roadsign.

Ultimately, we want potholes to be fixed quickly enough to eliminate the need for the sign – but in the meantime, we think it’s important to help drivers as much as possible.


I do think it’s vitally important that well recognised brands such as Confused.com push to make our roads safer – if consumers can identify with a brand that is campaigning to improve driving conditions it is undoubtedly a good thing.

My concern is the time and money spent producing the signs, going to the locations and finally erecting them – that time and cost would be better spent actually rectifying the pothole, wouldn’t it?

And just because there is a sign, it doesn’t make the pothole 100% avoidable – especially if there is a number of potholes in close proximity or a large one across one side of a carriageway – so damage costs caused by potholes are not going to disappear.

Ultimately I fear the introduction of this road sign would only further delay the actual repairs to the road. If councils can warrant the resources and finances to introduce these signs to warn of specific potholes then there is no good reason why they can’t warrant the immediate repair of the potholes using the very same resources and finances.

How has the feedback been directly to you about this issue? And how many people have signed the petition?

I’m really grateful you’ve spent the time and effort to come and comment – it’s good to see the company being proactive.


Quite frankly we are a nation of idiot drivers – many ignore all sorts of road conditions – it’s why our local sleeping policemen destroy suspensions and undersides of cars that traverse them at high speeds (over 20 mph)

I drive on country roads – I’m forever passing cars in the road side ditches because they were driving beyond safe limits – especially in rain or snow – .

So road side pothole signs won’t make much difference to the unsafe driver – but invaluable to those of us who do drive carefully and can read and understand the signs.

I have no idea how much Germans pay for Vehicle Excise Duty but hazard a guess it will be more than we do – and probably is actually spent on roads – unlike here. So we;d have bleating from the “hard done motorists” saying “I don’t drive on country roads so why should I pay more”?


There are also many sensible, considerate drivers. The number of serious accidents has fallen, even though there is plenty of scope for further improvement.

Philip Simpson says:
1 July 2011

I am sick of driving over potholes, every three months i have the Tracking checked which costs about £25. No sooner do i get it adjusted, then i have to drive over ****** country roads that knocks your Wheels and potentially damages your vehicles suspension.


I hit a very bad pothole that was not obvious because it was filled with water. I believe this was responsible for damage to the catalytic converter on my car. I am disappointed that there was no temporary warning sign, but at least the pothole was filled soon after my mishap. Potholes are usually obvious and can be avoided or driven over slowly.