RAC patrols attended more pothole-related breakdowns in 2021 than in any of the past three years, the motoring organisation has confirmed. According to the company’s data, its roadside assistance teams attended more than 10,000 callouts for problems likely to be caused by potholes, including broken suspension springs, distorted wheels and damaged shock absorbers.

With a total of 10,123 callouts for such issues last year, the organisation says it was responding to an average 27 pothole-related breakdowns every day, and more than one an hour. That figure also represents a substantial increase compared with 2020 and 2019.

Naturally, the coronavirus lockdown meant fewer drivers were likely to have problems in 2020, when the RAC responded to around 8,500 pothole-related callouts. But 2019 was relatively untouched by the pandemic, and the RAC only had to deal with 9,198 breakdowns that could be attributed to rough roads.

Big pothole on a country road with passing car

In 2021, the organisation says potholes caused or contributed to 1.5 percent of all its callouts for the year – up from 1.2 percent in 2020 and 1.1 percent in 2019. Even in 2018, potholes only caused 1.4 percent of the RAC’s total callouts for the year.

The results led the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, to describe the impact of potholes on motorists as “ridiculous” and “almost entirely avoidable”. He also reprised the RAC’s calls for the ring-fencing of tax for road maintenance.

“The rot appears to have well and truly set in when it comes to the country’s roads with our patrols going out to vast numbers of drivers who, through no fault of their own, are breaking down because of the wear-and-tear caused by potholes,” he said. “With drivers contributing so much in terms of tax to the government, the very least they deserve are roads that are fit-for-purpose.

“Potholed roads are a menace, not a mere annoyance – they can cause thousands of pounds of unnecessary damage to drivers’ vehicles, make using our roads uncomfortable and can be a serious road safety hazard for anyone on two wheels. Not getting our roads into a decent shape is simply storing up more problems – and more expense – for the future.

“It’s time local councils are given the levels of funding they need to get their roads up to a reasonable standard. Clearly, promises of one-off pots of cash from the government to fix the problem haven’t done the trick and we urgently need some fresh thinking. Ring-fencing a proportion of existing taxation and earmarking these funds purely for local roads over a long-term period would give councils the financial confidence they need to plan their road maintenance work, and finally break the back on this age-old problem. This is something we know would be popular with drivers.”

Deep pothole filled with water in Chichester between road and cycle path