Published in February, IAM RoadSmart’s latest annual Safety Culture Report, which tracks drivers’ changing attitudes to key road safety issues over time, discovered that three in four motorists (75%) now perceive potholes to be a bigger issue for road users than they were three years ago. Now in its sixth year, the report, which involves surveying more than 2,000 motorists, also discovered that:
- 89% of drivers had been affected by potholes over the last year
- 31% of drivers had changed their route to avoid a pothole
- 54% of drivers had to steer or brake heavily to avoid hitting a pothole
According to the survey’s participants, potholes are now a more significant concern than either driver distraction – such as drivers talking on phones or texting – or traffic congestion, leading some to question whether the UK’s pothole problem really can be as bad as the public perception suggests.
Vehicle damage on the increase
The latest data on vehicle breakdowns attended by the RAC illustrates the impact of the UK’s pothole problem on motorists, giving credence to their growing concerns. According to the figures, the first quarter of 2021 saw RAC patrols attend a total of 4,694 callouts that were most likely the result of hitting a pothole. This represents an enormous increase of 221% compared with the previous quarter.
This sharp increase will, in part, have been a result of the harsh winter months taking their toll on the roads, combined with the increase in number of vehicles returning to the roads due to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
However, the latest findings, as reported by FleetWorld magazine also represent a further overall worsening of the UK’s pothole problem as measured by the RAC’s Pothole Index. This gives an indication of the number of motorists affected by serious road defects today in comparison with 2006, when the RAC first began recording this metric. Up from 1.44 at the end of December 2020, the Index now stands at 1.48. This means that motorists are almost one-and-a-half times more likely to experience a pothole-related breakdown than they were in 2006.
Pothole damage is an increasing source of unforeseen costs for motorists and owners of business fleets. Impacts with potholes can cause damage to tyres and suspension, and the shock transmitted through a vehicle by a sharp road imperfection is known to cause stone chips in the windscreen to turn into much larger cracks. For business drivers who cover high mileages and who depend on their vehicles for the livelihood, and for their employers, such damage can be a source of financial strain due to the cost of repairs and vehicle downtime.
The cost to road safety
Pothole damage is an increasing source of unforeseen costs for motorists and owners of business fleets. Impacts with potholes can cause damage to tyres and suspension, and the shock transmitted through a vehicle by a sharp road imperfection is known to cause stone chips in the windscreen to turn into much larger cracks. For business drivers who depend on their vehicles for their livelihood, and for their employers, such damage can be a source of financial strain due to the cost of repairs and vehicle downtime.
The real cost can be more severe. For cyclists and motorcyclists, hitting a deep pothole can be enough to cause them to crash. Vehicles swerving to avoid a pothole rather than risking damage to their own vehicle could instead result in a collision with oncoming traffic. Furthermore, not all vehicle damage is immediately apparent after an impact with a pothole. Hidden damage to tyre sidewalls, for example, may manifest itself in a dangerous tyre blowout further down the road.
Commenting on the Safety Culture Report’s findings, Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart’s Director of Policy & Research, said: “The pothole situation on UK roads has now become much more than just irritating, it’s a significant threat to personal safety. We simply can’t have vehicles swerving into oncoming traffic or slamming on their brakes without warning to avoid them. Deteriorating roads also put pedestrians and cyclists at greater risk.
“It is clearly a sign of the times when motorists perceive potholes to be a bigger growing concern to them than drink driving and texting. And while the statistics show that the devastating impacts of using a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or using a mobile phone when driving still remain, it does highlight that it is time for government to take potholes seriously and fix the UK’s road network.”
Taking positive action to avoid road hazards
If you’re concerned about the impact of poor road conditions on your vehicles or on the safety of your employees, there are ways we can help you to help them. Enhanced observation skills, developed through our on-road or online training courses can help drivers to spot hazards and avoid collisions.