/ Motoring

Has your car or bike been damaged by a pothole?

We want to hear from cyclists and motorists: have you suffered due to a pothole? Is the condition our roads are in getting worse?

From reporting potholes to potential solutions, we have of course discussed the topic many times here on Which? Conversation.

For now, though, it seems our pothole problem is getting worse rather than better. With our roads seemingly deteriorating, we want to hear directly from the cyclists and motorists they’e affecting.

According to the latest Asphalt UK survey, the number of potholes filled in the last year jumped by 24%, from 1.5 million in 2017 to 1.86 million in 2018. 

It sounds like the situation is improving, but in England alone the number of potholes reported on roads controlled by Highways England increased by 46.6% from 2017 to 2018. 

The cost to drivers

Despite the announcement of extra funding, and new innovations designed to speed up the process of fixing potholes, there are still plenty of bumps in the road – causing significant cost and potentially physical harm to the UK’s road users.

The AA estimates that there were over 4,200 claims for pothole damage in the five months to May 2018.

With an estimated average repair bill of around £1,000, that comes to an eye-watering £4.2 million, or more than £1m per month. Two thirds of drivers said that roads have ‘considerably deteriorated’ over the last decade, too. 

But the numbers don’t capture the true cost of hitting a pothole – in some cases they aren’t just an inconvenience or a trip to the garage or call to your insurance company, they can cause serious injury.

Two-wheel terror

If you’ve ever passed a group of cyclists on the UK’s roads, then you may well have heard the cry of ‘hole!’ go up as they speed past, alerting the cyclists behind to a potentially damaging pothole.

It’s a warning that’s taken seriously – potholes can be damaging to bikes, and often the cyclists that are riding them. 

How do I report a pothole and claim compensation?

According to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Cycling UK in March 2019, the average pay out for cyclists after an incident involving a pothole was £8,825.93 over a five year period, compared to £338.88 per motorist. 

The charity suggested that the vast difference could be due to the serious physical damage that can be incurred by cyclists.

According to Department for Transport figures, more than 360 cyclists reported serious injuries, caused by poor or defective road surfaces, between 2007 and 2016, and there were at least 22 fatalities.

Is funding falling short?

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced during the 2018 Budget that local councils will be allocated £420 million during this financial year so that they can attempt to fix potholes in their constituency – this is on top of an existing fund that is made up of close to £300 million.

But according to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey 2018 (ALARM), £9.79 billion is the estimated one-time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition in England and Wales.

Even then, it would take 10 years to clear the maintenance backlog, so the current funding is falling short.

Cyclists and drivers: get in touch

We want to hear your experiences; have you reported a pothole in your area, and how quickly (if at all) has it been fixed? Has your car been damaged by a pothole incident, and what was the cost to repair it?

Do you think the condition of the roads is improving, or is it worse than in the past?

We also want to hear from cyclists and motorcyclists – have you had an accident or injury as a result of a pothole? Do potholes put you off cycling or riding a motorbike? 

Comments

Referring to your article on potholes. It’s not only potholes that give rise to road surface problems, but it also seems to be the case, unlike 20/30 years ago, that when roads are resurfaced, drain/manhole covers are not adjusted in height to give an even road surface, giving rise to a ‘pothole effect’.

Another problem is speed bumps that require slowing down to less than half of the speed limit. Speed bumps should always be in sync with the speed limit, whereby it’s possible to drive at the speed limit over the speed bumps without causing damage to one’s car. Nobody wants traffic to be speeding up and slowing down between speed bumps, because this increases pollution and noise.

In 2018 I hit a pothole in Winchester that ruined my tyre and damaged the alloy rim. I have photos of the 70mm hole. Can I still claim for repairs?

Mr D.B says:
26 June 2019

In May 2019 I hit a large pot hole in a road in Brentwood Essex and was thrown off my bike over the handlebars. I sustained a head and wrist injury and other cuts and bruises and my bike sustained damage. The driver of a car following stopped and rendered assistance and as I was briefly knocked unconscious, called the ambulance and police service and I was taken to hospital. I was discharged later that day following tests etc.
The following day I returned to the scene with my son, who took photographic evidence using a tape measure and straight piece of timber to measure the depth and size of the pot hole I hit. We also took evidence of a number of other large potholes and generally uneven road surface, as an example of the general bad state of repair.
I have checked Essex County Council website and noticed that they do not regard a pothole which is 113mm deep x 300mm long x approx. 250mm wide to be of a high risk to road users. Unfortunately, they do not state weather their risk assessment includes cyclists as road users!
As I regular cyclist, I have found that the majority of roads I use have fallen into a bad state of repair or where repairs have been carried out, they are of a very poor standard and quite often appear to be only temporary. They are generally carried out at the end of a financial year to mop up any spare cash!
I would also echo Donald Cravens comment regarding manhole covers and drains which surprisingly tend to be toward the edge of the road along the line cyclists would take!

We have claimed several times now for damage to cars – tyres, alloys and cracked windscreen.

What has been apparent on these occasions is you don’t just claim off your local or county council. You get passed from pillar to post through various companies that you wonder what on earth do they have to do with our roads?

How much money is wasted on all these hanger-on companies who would not be involved if they weren’t making money out of it?

We all notice the shoddy workmanship that goes into repairing potholes. They return to the same hole time and time again incurring multiple costs to the taxpayer, and no doubt this incompetence generates more claims for damages – more wasted money.

Of the 1.86 million pothole repairs mentioned in the intro, how many were new potholes and how many were holes being repaired for the umpteenth time?

… according to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey 2018 (ALARM), £9.79 billion is the estimated one-time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition in England and Wales. (I wonder how much money it cost to generate that report).

It might not solve the whole problem of our potholes, but there is one simple solution to finding the funding:
.

Wasting money in local government?!! A CEO of a county council recently parted company with his authority after just 6 months, believed to be prompted by a falling out with a “colleague”. The pay-off – £292 000.

It is time we stopped public bodies from being so irresponsible with our money. But how?

Phil says:
27 June 2019

Hit a pothole caused by a leaking water main. Recorded by the dashcam. Got £180 towards new tyres and realignment of suspension.

Councils require a lot of information including proof of when tyres were fitted and mileage at the time so keep those receipts!

The prevalence of potholes has increased in the East Midlands area. As a car driver, I’ve had to replace my tyres more frequently due to deep rips and gashes caused when driving over unavoidable potholes, often having to replace two tyres at once costing hundreds of pounds each time. With low profile tyres, my alloys have also suffered gouges resulting in premature corrosion. I have attempted to claim from the relevant local authority in the past without success – my claim was rejected because they didn’t know about the specific pothole that caused the damage.

The poor state of the road in general concerns me particularly from the perspective of two-wheeled road users who are even more vulnerable.

With more road users, I’d like to know where all the road fund licence money is going?

Phil says:
29 June 2019

Pot holes are bad news to low profile tyres. I was talking to somebody the other day who had to replace all 4 wheels on his BMW because they’d been knocked out of shape by potholes.

Even if half the potholes disappeared tomorrow there would still be a problem. Avoid cars with low profile tyres.

So don’t buy cars with low profile tyres.

Phil says:
30 June 2019

Problem is that if you want the more powerful options of even quite mundane vehicles they only come with low profile tyres.

Su Johnston says:
29 June 2019

Let’s add an incident when my electric buggy on a road that has no pavement, hit a pothole – there was no other way forward – and broke the back axle. This was covered by insurance. I don’t know if Mole Valley District Council took any notice – or of a petition I got up, signed by residents and users of the road.

A cautionary tale. Last May I hit an unmarked speed bump in Walsall at 22mph and broke a spring, costing me £574 + VAT to fix. Apparently speed bumps don’t need to be marked in 20mph zones. Sadly I didn’t know how to save my dashcam footage proving my speed so the evidence is lost, Walsall has of course denied any responsibility, and I no longer have have the evidence to challenge them. The repair garage told me that no properly configured speed hump should wreck any suspension at just 22mph. Such is life on British roads.

We think our roads are bad, but you should go to the Toronto area of eastern Canada! Their surfaces are far worse than ours, riddled with enormous potholes on all types of road – the result, I am told, of their severe and comparatively lengthy winters. We found the ride to be bone-jarring in every kind of vehicle, ranging from the 700,000 mile propane-fuelled airport Ford taxi to the brand new Kia Soul that we hired on our recent trip.

N Williams says:
29 June 2019

The privatisation of council services has seen the demise of a local labour force who used to regularly inspect their patch and carry out maintenance before further deterioration occurred.
It now seems that the public are required to report dangerous situations .

Most potholes emanate from poor quality utility company repairs. If Councils ceased to accept this shoddy work and forced the repair to be of good quality or even always done to the centre line rather than a local patch we would start to see improvements. Currently they patch repair poorly and work has to be redone in a year. How about a Which? campaign to force Councils to inspect all road repairs and reject any not to standard?

June Adamson says:
30 June 2019

I reported a deep pothole to my local council and it was fixed quite quickly. As a cyclist I find that areas around utility covers etc the most hazardous. My local council (Medway) does not have a great record over fixing potholes but it does try.

The main problem round here is the edges of country roads. Vehicles veer onto the grass verge, which nibbles away the tarmac, leaving potholes. This does not happen on the roads where the tarmac is supported by a concrete edge. There is not much problem for cars that avoid the edges but it’s downright dangerous for cyclists and motorcyclists.

I’ve noticed that where this happens the most is where two vehicles have to squeeze over to pass; when one is a huge tractor pulling a heavily laden trailer the damage is normally done by the trailer as it has smaller wheels and significantly higher pressure in the tyres.

Heavy vehicles are certainly a problem. On the worst road I know – which requires repairs every year – drivers often veer off-road rather than pulling into one of the passing places, particularly if they are in 4WD vehicles.

I hit a pothole on the A41 in January 2019 & made a claim against Shropshire Council in February after I had taken the car to have the wheels balanced which showed that both nearside wheels had been buckled.
The cost of replacement wheels is £1128. My claim is being handled by the councils agents Gallagher Bassett who advised on the 29th May the below;

“We have received and reviewed our client’s reports and are in a position to admit a breach of duty subject to causation however.

For us to consider it further, please provide me with images of both damaged alloy wheels, we need to determine that they definitely required replacing.”

I replied to this stating that it is not possible to show a buckled wheel in a photograph to which they replied that a report from the garage would be fine, this I duly did and then I received the below response;

“I am no longer with the company anymore. Please either redirect your email to UK.TeamSF.Midlands@gbtpa.com or contact the office if urgent on 01827 434800”

So I am still awaiting an outcome.

This is the eleventh Convo on potholes since 2010. The same comments and experiences are being repeated, but nothing changes. Councils don’t have the cash, although they seem to manage to make huge severance payments to their staff – £292 000 for one reported above would have fixed around 3000 potholes.

Like defective appliances these are often a critical safety issue and should be dealt with as such – but less incompetently. What is lacking in these Convos is exactly how to deal with them (other than using pizza, or planting then with flowers – see previous Convos). Like litter picking, should we form local groups to make temporary repairs, or simply to mark them very conspicuously to warn road users – particularly those on 2 wheels? A national movement might wake the authorities up to finding the money. Instead of spending £200m last year on hotels and other expenses for our military chiefs for example, 2 million potholes could have been properly repaired. Funny where money can be found.

One way of funding pothole repairs would be to introduce a tax on products that are not necessary and cause environmental damage. In the UK, bottled water would be a good start.

Lack of pothole repair is down to an apparent lack of money. This could be partially addressed – although there may be more pressing contenders like social care – if those responsible for dispensing public money were made to properly justify their proposals. That probably requires politicians with common sense and their associated civil servants with some degree of financial acumen and competence. The Brexit ferry contract debacle is an example which has, I believe, cost the taxpayer around £80 million – or 800 000 potholes in today’s currency.

The “financial responsibility” approach might be summed up by this remark:
“In the House of Lords, the transport minister, Baroness Vere, ……….. defended the contracts, which she said were only a small fraction of the £4bn no-deal planning:“. So “that’s all right then”. No concept of the value of money, apparently.

Councils can’t be expected to inspect every road frequently – they can’t fix potholes they don’t know about: so report them. I have Birmingham’s report a road defect page bookmarked. As a cyclist it is easy to stop and note the location of potholes. They have a grading system, size and depth, to rate their severity. They aim to repair very serious ones within hours; but lesser ones, that are often a problem for cyclists, are usually marked with paint and take weeks to fix: after deteriorating further.
There is a national website http://www.fillthathole.org.uk who forward reports to the relevant authority.

Richard Vigus says:
30 June 2019

VW Golf 1.6TDI. In the last 12 months I have had to replace two broken front road springs, one front failed suspension strut plus broken suspension strut top mounting. I have only driven less than 5000 miles in this period and I class myself as a carefull driver.
Is this a record.