Potholes: 9 in 10 UK drivers affected by poor road conditions

Published: 04 February 2021

►  Drivers increasingly concerned by potholes
►  89% of drivers consider them to be a major safety concern
►  Currently, 42,675 miles of road are in poor condition

Around nine in 10 drivers (89%) were affected by potholes during 2020, according to road safety charity IAM Roadsmart’s latest annual Safety Culture Report. It concludes that the issue of poor road maintenance is now a major concern for motorists, with 12% of drivers surveyed having their cars damaged by potholes last year.

The survey, which tracks drivers’ attitudes to key road safety issues, shows just how big a problem potholes are. It found that 75% now consider them to be a bigger issue for road users than they were three years ago. This was followed by driver distraction (68%) – such as texting or talking on a mobile phone – and traffic congestion (65%). The report is now in its sixth year and involves canvassing the opinions of more than 2000 motorists. It should make grim reading for local authorities, as drivers report that their councils are failing to keep on top of road maintenance. It also found that 31% of drivers had changed their route to avoid a pothole, while more than half (54%) had to steer away or brake hard to avoid impact and damage.

Regional variations

How big a problem potholes appears to be depends on where you live. In the south east, 81% of drivers considered potholes to be a bigger road safety issue than three years ago, whereas that figure drops to 61% in London and 64% in the north east. The numbers certainly back up drivers’ concerns. It is currently estimated that there are some 42,675 miles of UK roads classed as being in poor structural condition. It would cost an estimated £11.14 billion to bring them up to a level at which they could be maintained cost effectively going forward, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance.

However, IAM RoadSmart’s research also found that 12% of drivers had enough damage to their car caused by the pothole to require a repair and only 16% had reported a pothole to the authorities. Just 7% then went on to make a claim for the damage. Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: ‘The pothole situation on UK roads has now become much more than just irritating – it’s a significant threat to personal safety. We simply can’t have vehicles swerving into oncoming traffic or slamming on their brakes without warning to avoid them. Deteriorating roads also put pedestrians and cyclists at greater risk.’

By Keith Adams

Devout classic Citroen enthusiast, walking car encyclopedia, and long-time contributor to CAR