All you need to know about potholes

Potholes pose a danger to vehicles

We’re definitely not alone when we say that the UK’s pothole problem is fast becoming a crisis.

In 2017, 161 councils in England, Scotland and Wales received 512,270 reports of potholes, according to the RAC.

This staggering number had increased from 356,432 complaints in 2015, indicating just how fast the issue is escalating. And the RAC believes that the number of potholes might actually exceed 675,000 in reality…

How do potholes happen?

Potholes often form as round holes on roads and pavements, caused when moisture gets trapped in cracks in the tarmac. The trapped water expands when it freezes, pushing the hole to get bigger during colder weather.

As cars drive over the cracks, the holes widen, leading to potholes.

If the weather’s particularly bad, with water freezing and then re-thawing, or the roads becoming wet and then dry in quick succession, potholes are much more likely to form and become worse.

There’s also an issue of councils fixing potholes only temporarily, rather than fixing the whole road. If the potholes are patched up but the underlying tarmac isn’t resurfaced, cracks are likely to continue forming.

What damage can potholes cause to my vehicle?

Hitting a pothole with your car can lead to several dangerous problems. According to research, around a third of all vehicle damage is attributable to potholes.

Wheels can buckle and be knocked off balance, and cracks and bumps can form in the tyres. Alloys can also get damaged.

Another common issue is damage to the car’s suspension, which can become misaligned or sustain broken ball joints, shocks and struts.

There’s also the very real danger that a driver could lose control of their car by hitting an unexpected pothole.

How can I avoid my vehicle being damaged by a pothole?

There are several tips for making sure you avoid pothole problems:

  • Always keep an eye out for them on the road ahead
  • Leave enough space between your car and the pothole
  • Keep to speed limits to avoid going too fast over potholes
  • Don’t break unnecessarily fast when you hit a pothole, as you will likely strain your car’s front suspension as the vehicle tips into the pothole
  • If you see an unavoidable pothole, urge caution when driving over it
  • Drive with your hands in the correct steering wheel position to make sure that you won’t suddenly lose control
  • Get your tyre pressure checked regularly to reduce the chance of damage
  • Collect any parts lost due to a pothole, such as a hubcap, in a safe manner
  • If you do hit a pothole, get your car checked to make sure nothing’s come loose or has been lost – there may be damage you can’t see at first glance

Can I get compensation if my car is damaged by a pothole?

If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole, you may be able to claim some compensation.

This depends on whether the pothole has already been reported to the council, as they will not be liable if the pothole wasn’t known to them.

Alternatively, you may be able to claim through your own car insurer.

What can be done about potholes?

It’s widely understood that in order to prevent roads from developing potholes, councils need to properly resurface roads instead of using quick fixes.

Planning the prevention of potholes in advance as part of road maintenance is also better in the longer term for local authority budgets and for drivers.

However, councils aren’t able to keep track of all the potholes that appear across the whole country without help. You can do your bit by reporting any potholes you spot to your local council.

If you’re reporting a motorway or A-road pothole, you can contact Highways England by email or telephone on 0300 123 5000. If you’re in Scotland and see a pothole, you can email, and in Northern Ireland, you can email.

Alternatively, you can use non-governmental sites such as Fix My Street, which automatically pass on reports to the council. This helps councils to stay on track of the problem and highlights how bad the issue is for drivers.

The more awareness there is, the more likely it is that something is done about it. You can also see where there are potholes and other issues in your area, so you know which roads are going to be more dangerous.

Interested in seeing what other driving tips we have to offer? We have a whole section for you on the 1ST CENTRAL Hub.

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