Despite mild and comparatively dry winter conditions the RAC attended 63% more pothole-related breakdowns in the first quarter of 2017 than they did over the same period in in 2016.
In total the RAC dealt with more than 6,500 breakdown jobs between January and March 2017 that were likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces – such as broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels.
The last time so many pothole-related breakdowns were recorded was in the first quarter of 2015 when patrols were called out to nearly 6,900 such breakdowns. That quarter, however, saw both more frost days and rainfall than the equivalent period this year.
|The RAC is therefore surprised by the rise in the first quarter of 2017, as it was expecting to see a reduction in the overall number of pothole-related breakdowns. It is a major concern because it suggests the condition of the UK’s roads is balanced on a knife-edge and that it would only take one season of cold and wet weather to cause further damage, offsetting any recent improvements and making them worse than ever.
When considered in the context of all RAC breakdowns the share of pothole-related call-outs in Q1 2017 equated to 2.7% of all RAC jobs – this is the largest quarterly figure seen since the RAC’s pothole analysis began in 2006.
|The latest figures do offer a glimmer of hope for road users as the longer term picture is an improving one. The RAC Pothole Index, a 12-month rolling average of pothole-related breakdowns which is corrected to remove unrelated longer term effects of weather and improving vehicle reliability, currently stands at 2.08, its lowest value since the last quarter of 2008. This suggests that – looking at breakdowns over a much longer time period – the overall quality of the UK’s road surfaces is beginning to get better, though still well short of their condition a decade ago.|
The rise in the share of pothole-related call-outs in 2017 may not tell the whole story because it can, in part, be put down to the RAC attending fewer breakdowns in a milder winter, especially those that could be deemed classic ‘cold weather’ breakdowns such as problems with car batteries.
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