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.

It’s been reported that in 2018 more than 905,000 potholes were reported on UK roads according to Confused.com.

Shockingly when combined, the total number of potholes in the UK would reach a depth of 33km – that’s three times deeper than the Pacific’s Mariana Trench.

What’s more, in 2017-2018, Highways England paid out a whopping £329,379 in compensation following a damage report claim. This is a huge increase from 2017 – 2018 when just £81,500 was paid out.

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 the speed limit 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?

The one good thing about potholes is that if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole, you may be able to claim some compensation.

In 2017-2018, Highways England paid out a whopping £329,379 in compensation following a damage report claim. This is a huge increase from 2017 – 2018 when just £81,500 was paid out.

However, getting the payout can be tricky as it depends on whether the pothole has already been reported to the council, as unfortunately, they’re not liable if the pothole wasn’t known to them.

How do I claim for pothole damage?

If you’re planning on claiming for pothole damage you need to go to your local authority with records of everything where possible. Here are a few little tips to help make your case as compelling as possible:

1. Gather evidence

As long as it’s safe you need to get as much evidence as you can. If you have anything to measure the depth and width of the pothole as well as the position in the road that will help your case venomously.

If you don’t have anything, you can always take some photos of the pothole next to something like a shoe helps to provide an easy frame of reference for its size. 

You should also note:

  • The time and day of the incident
  • Witness details, if any
  • Your exact location so you can pinpoint the specific pothole
  • Overview of the damage to your car

2. Report the pothole

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.

3. Repair your car

Don’t just go to your usual garage straight away, it’ll help if you get several quotes to repair the damage.

If you’re not paying over the odds for fixing your car, you’re more likely to get that money back.

Keep records of any quotes and receipts you get for the repairs as these will definitely help support your claim.

4. Make your case

To make your case you need to get in touch with the same local authority you reported the pothole to, including all of the below:

  • A full description of the incident
  • Location, time and date
  • Contact details of any witnesses
  • Photographs of the pothole
  • Photographs of the damage to your car
  • Copies of all quotes and receipts used in the repair

5. Next steps

Once you’ve submitted your claim, one of three things will happen:

  1.  The council accepts your claims and covers all of your repair expenses
  2. The council offers a partial settlement
  3. The council rejects the claim entirely

If you’re unhappy with the outcome, there’s always the option of taking your case to the small claims court. 

Alternatively, if the claim is rejected and the repair bill is large, there’s the possibility you’dd be able to claim on your insurance.

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 long-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.

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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