The number of UK breakdowns caused by potholes has hit a three-year high, according to new figures from the RAC. The recovery organisation says it helped almost 4,700 drivers who had broken down with faults “most likely” caused by potholes in the first three months of 2021, despite the national lockdown.

Not only does that mean the organisation assisted an average of 52 drivers stopped in their tracks by potholes every day, but it also represents a threefold increase in callouts compared with the final three months of 2020. It’s the largest increase in pothole-related breakdowns the RAC has seen since it began collecting such data.

The latest quarter represented a 37-percent rise in callouts triggered by potholes, and the RAC says the figures would have been higher had the traffic volumes been at pre-lockdown levels. However, with heavy restrictions on movement in place for pretty much all of the three-month period, the breakdown organisation says the impact of Britain’s scarred streets could have been worse.

Pothole in the street

And the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said the figures highlighted the problematic state of the UK’s asphalt. The roads, he asserted, could have been patched up during the lockdown – especially amid promises of government funding – but he said the money was not enough to cure the problems faced by councils.

“These figures highlight what is a genuinely ‘uncomfortable truth’ for both road users as well as local and national governments,” said Lyes. “In many cases, the condition of many roads is now in a desperate state. Back in January we feared the colder winter risked causing further extensive damage to the roads, and it’s clear this is now exactly what has happened.

“Quieter roads brought about by national lockdowns could have been an ideal time for councils to start to fix problem road surfaces ready for the arrival of more traffic as restrictions are eased. Sadly, our data suggests this may not have been the case and may also suggest many councils are still simply patching up potholes rather than fixing them properly.

“What is undeniably clear is that all road users, whether on two-wheels or four, are paying the price for a lack of long-term maintenance for roads they use regularly. Pots of funding announced annually may help fill some potholes, but they don’t cure the problem over the long-term by dealing with underlying major surface defects. Nor do they allow local authorities to plan routine maintenance. We appeal to the Transport Secretary and the Treasury to take a fresh look at roads funding.”

Pothole repair roadworks