As the season’s change and the weather gets colder, autumn hails the annual debacle of damage caused by Britain’s poor road surfaces and the ever-present, ever-painful potholes. Reports today have suggested that Britain has one pothole in every mile of road. Couple this with an increasingly ‘American’ attitude to compensation claiming and it’s no wonder the UK has seen a 79% increase in compensation claims from Britain’s motorists as a result of damage caused by potholes. In fact, the problem has become so huge that breakdown service Britannia Rescue, which gathered this report, said potholes now “take up a total area of 295 square miles (764 square km) in Britain – more than twice the size of the Isle of Wight”. Quite an astonishing statistic.
What is a Pothole?
Much like erosion in nature, potholes are mainly caused when a small crack or chip in the rock surface grows due to the expansion and contraction of water under the effects of increasing and decreasing temperatures. This effect is exacerbated in colder months as water expands when it freezes and contracts when it melts, stretching small cracks into large holes in no time at all. Potholes develop from these smaller cracks when roads become brittle which can result in cracking and chippings loosening.
How do local authorities deal with potholes?
The priority for attending to a pothole, and the ‘severity’ of it, is determined by the risk it poses to all road users, including motorists, cyclists and to a lesser extent pedestrians. One local authority states: “The factors to be taken into account include size and depth, traffic type, speed and volume, road alignment and visibility, and also the position in relation to usage.” Where a pothole is noted for Category 1 repair, this is required to be made safe and temporarily repaired within 24 hours of first inspection, then maintained in a safe condition until a permanent repair is completed. All other defects are repaired under the department’s programmed routine maintenance.
One local authority has used a number of new technologies to repair potholes, including Nu-phalt infra-red technology in urban areas (Nu-phalt infra red surfacing is far quicker than traditional techniques and carries many cost and environmental benefits as it heats up and recycles the existing surface material); and Velocity patching, a special technique to repair potholes in more rural areas.
The Pothole Pandemic
Increasingly harsh winters, followed by a fairly dry summer in the UK this year have combined to make the problem worse, but the key issue, it is claimed, is that there is just not enough funding for road maintenance. Britannia Rescue said: “Short-term fixes are often chosen over longer term solutions, with close to a quarter (23%) of councils admitting they usually temporarily fix potholes rather than resurface the area.” It is claimed that it cost of fixing potholes is, on average, around £50 – meaning the £2.5m in compensation paid out to motorists in the past financial year by councils could have been used to repair more than 50,000 potholes.
Pothole Compensation Hot Spots:
(5 worst areas ranked by the amount of compensation paid out).
- Lincolnshire County Council – £358,664
- West Sussex County Council – £195,043
- London Borough of Wandsworth – £148,881
- Surrey County Council – £144,336
- Cumbria County Council – £104,654
What’s the Damage?
Sources suggest the UK is now suffering from a plague of around 200,000 potholes, with almost 1 in 10 motorists suffering car damage.
The most commonly reported problems as a result of hitting a pothole are:
• Tyre Damage (43%)
• Suspension Damage (34%)
• Wheel Rim Damage (26%)
Obviously some people can experience all three of these at once, proving a very costly experience indeed.
This message adds further to our calls for people to protect their summer wheel investment by using an affordable winter alloy or steel wheel & tyre package – a sentiment you may now echo knowing every time you hit the road there’s a 10% chance you could hit a pothole and cause damage to your vehicle.
Cyclists and other road users also suffer from the threat of the dreaded potholes, with one story telling of a cyclist losing his teeth, breaking his nose and requiring stitches to his face after coming off his bike at speed when he hit a pothole.
Britannia Rescue finished by saying: “Motorists should protect themselves and their vehicles by reducing their speed on potholed roads, and also reporting damaged roads to their local council.”
Could this joke be a real solution?
Motoring goliaths, The AA played a prank on the UK when it came up with a rather ingenious way of helping motorists avoid potholes with their “quick seal yellow” Pothole Assist programme, whereby they were to fill potholes with a self-levelling, neon yellow solution. This news was released on April Fools’ Day, but we could actually see this as a potentially genuine solution, don’t you?
I, for one, would rather see a street laden with bright yellow spots than damage my car in another of Britain’s potholes!
Source: Wheelwright Blog