National Pothole Day

Today is National Pothole Day - an awareness campaign aimed at highlighting this increasing blight on Britain’s roads, the damage they can do to vehicles and the potential safety hazard they pose.
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The campaign has been organised by StreetRepairs.co.uk and it’s hoped a social media bomb using the hashtag #nationalpotholeday will help whip up interest.

The size of the pothole problem

The UK has a pothole problem 295 square miles wide and rising – that’s almost twice the size of Birmingham – which is costing motorists around £100million a year in repair bills, according to figures from the RAC. The breakdown recovery service has also revealed that in 2013 call-outs involving broken suspension and damaged wheels were up by two-thirds, with more than 28,000 incidents recorded. Furthermore, a recent study from TyreSafe found there has been a significant increase in the number of motorists who believe one of their tyres has a slow puncture. In many cases though the pressure loss is a result of air escaping from cracked wheel rims that have been damaged by driving over potholes. And it’s not only motorists who are being hit in the pocket as figures from the Asphalt Industry Alliance estimate that local councils in England alone will have to splash out £12billion juts to get the roads back up to speed – twice the amount the government has put aside to fix the problem over the next six years.

The rise of the pothole problem

There are two main reasons why the UK’s pothole problem is getting worse – weather and money. Potholes are caused when moisture gets into cracks in the road and then expands as it freezes, something that has been particularly problematic in recent winters when temperatures have dropped dramatically. The holes then get bigger as vehicles drive over them and damage the structure of the road below the surface, and are further damaged by continuing freeze-and-thaw conditions. And then there’s the fact that many local authorities simply don’t have enough money to repair the potholes – Leeds City Council, for instance, is facing an estimated repair bill of between £90million and £100million – and any repairs that are carried out are just short-term fixes rather than long-term maintenance.

Avoiding potholes

Hitting a pothole even at relatively low speeds can damage tyres, wheels and steering alignment. Hit one at high speed and you can easily lose control of your car. So when driving, make sure you keep a look out for potholes and an eye of your speed, especially in wet weather when deep potholes can be hidden beneath puddles. And keep plenty of distance from the cars ahead to give yourself a better chance of seeing any potholes before you hit them. If you do hit a pothole, let the wheel roll freely over the hole and try not to hit the brakes as this can place more stress on the front suspension. And holding the wheel in the correct ’10 to 2’ position at all times gives you a better chance of keeping control of your vehicle. If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole, you may be able to claim against the local authority – my article How to make a claim for pothole damage explains what you need to do.

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