The number of pothole-related breakdowns shot up during the first three months of 2020, according to new data. Figures from the RAC show the number of breakdowns attributed to pothole damage rose by 64 percent compared with the previous three-month period.

Such a jump is normally expected as the weather turns over the winter months, but the number of callouts received by the RAC jumped 4.5 percent with the same period in 2019. And the RAC points out the number of breakdowns could have been higher still had the UK not gone into lockdown before the end of March.

In the first quarter of 2020, breakdowns resulting from damaged shock absorbers, broken springs and distorted wheels - all of which the RAC says are most likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces - made up 1.6 percent of all the RAC’s call-outs for its members between January and March. This was up from 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019 and very slightly up on the first quarter of 2019, when that figure stood at 1.5 percent.

Pothole in the street

According to the RAC, the figures suggest drivers are now 1.6 times more likely to break down as a result of potholes than when the organisation started collecting data in 2006. In part, the motoring organisation says the problems are down to the flooding seen between November 2019 and February 2020, which is “bound to have taken its toll” on road surfaces, despite the relatively mild winter.

“The jump in pothole-related breakdowns from the last three months of the year to the first quarter of the next year is always the largest as winter weather has the greatest effect of all in wearing down our roads,” said the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes. “Many parts of the country suffered very wet weather conditions throughout February, though the winter overall was generally mild. While the wet conditions mercifully gave way to much drier weather as we headed into March, it’s still likely that the storms and floods were major factors in why the number of pothole-related breakdowns was higher than the same period last year.

Pothole in road Croydon, Greater London

“While millions of cars are mostly confined to streets and driveways during the coronavirus lockdown, people are more reliant than ever on their vehicles to buy food and important household items. The last thing any driver needs on the way to do their essential weekly shop is to suffer a nasty pothole-related breakdown that puts their car out of action, especially with fewer garages open than usual. This means the quality of local roads is, ironically, as important as ever.

“In his Budget in March, the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure – which of course needs to include good quality roads. Moreover, it will also be interesting to see if lower traffic volumes during the UK’s lockdown will help prevent further deterioration of roads as fewer wheels going over weaknesses in the asphalt should contribute to less surface wear.”