Incredibly, this represents a three-fold increase in the number of pothole-related breakdowns from the last quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, up 3,233 from 1,461 in Q4 2020 and is the largest rise between quarters the RAC has ever seen.
In total, 2.4% of all call-outs attended by RAC patrols between January and March were for broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers – the classic symptoms of a driver having hit a pothole – up from 1.6% during the same period in 2020, and the highest proportion seen since 2017.
When comparing the first quarter of 2021 with the same period of 2020, an incredible 37% more pothole-related breakdowns occurred (4,694 breakdowns in the first three months of the year compared to 3,426 breakdowns), a figure made even more stark by the fact the country has spent much of the first quarter in lockdown with lighter than normal traffic volumes on roads. Had traffic volumes been at pre-lockdown levels, the figures would have been even worse.
The numbers highlight the parlous state of many roads which have been ravaged by the colder winter weather that affected much of the UK between January and March. They also put into sharp focus the enormous task now facing local and national governments to bring road surface standards up to a reasonable level.
Despite promises of more money from central government, the RAC believes many councils remain stuck in a vicious cycle, unable to properly repair the hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of roads they are responsible for.
The RAC Pothole Index, a long-term measure of the condition of roads which is adjusted for weather and seasonal effects, also increased in the first quarter of 2021 for the first time since early 2018 and now stands at 1.48, up from 1.44 as of the end of December 2020.
This suggests that road quality is now in a declining state and means drivers are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to breakdown as a result of hitting potholes today than they were when the RAC first started collecting data back in 2006.