RAC says government should invest in roads to ensure economic recovery from the pandemic.

Potholes are still a major issue for British motorists despite the coronavirus lockdowns, according to new figures from the RAC. The organisation’s data shows potholes account for the same proportion of breakdowns as before the pandemic, despite the reduced traffic on British roads.

During the final three months of 2020, RAC patrols attended around 1,500 breakdowns thought to be caused by potholes. These included call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels, and represented around one percent of all RAC callouts.

Although the one percent figure is down on the previous quarter, between from July to September 2020, the RAC says it is identical to the same period in 2019 and slightly higher than during the last quarter of 2018. The organisation says the figures are “concerning”, because less traffic should mean less damage to road surfaces.

Pothole next to manhole cover marked for repair in London

While the pothole proportion of all RAC breakdowns in the last three months of 2020 is down on the previous quarter, it is identical to the same period in 2019 and slightly higher than 2018 (0.8%). The RAC finds this concerning given the lower traffic volumes brought about by coronavirus travel restrictions as in theory, less traffic should mean less damage to road surfaces.

The RAC data showed the south-east of England saw the largest number of vehicle problems thought to be caused by potholes, at 242, or 17 percent of all the RAC’s pothole-related call-outs. Although the organisation admits that could be down to the region’s large population, the south-west of England does not have the same excuse. The sparsely populated region accounted for 12 percent of all the RAC’s pothole breakdowns – equal with the more densely populated north-west of England.

“As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough for other reasons, nearly 1,500 of our members have also had to endure unwanted, and no doubt expensive, damage to their vehicles caused by potholes and other road surface defects,” said the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes. “While the actual number of pothole-related call-outs our patrols have attended is down significantly compared to the same time in 2019 due to lower traffic volumes, they account for the same proportion of all RAC rescues, which clearly demonstrates there are still far too many poorly maintained roads.

“We realise council budgets are under incredible pressure due to the coronavirus, but we badly need the government to recognise the significance of local roads and take a fresh look at how to fund them.”

Road worker repairing pothole in Buckingham UK