Data shows that 2,830 RAC individual member breakdowns were logged between October and December 2017 where vehicles had broken down due to damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels, likely due to poor quality road surfaces.
The number of these potential pothole breakdowns was up from 2,547 in the same quarter of 2016. It suggests that the surface quality of some UK roads has already been impacted by the higher rainfall and increased days of frost during the last quarter of 2017 compared with the same period in 2016.
The RAC believes the condition of many roads is therefore hanging in the balance with the potential for a further sharp rise in the number of potholes by the spring if the weather is particularly wet or cold over the next few months.
There was also a sharper increase in pothole-related breakdowns between the third and fourth quarters of 2017 than there was in the year before. While an increase is always expected between the two seasons as the weather turns colder, breakdowns rose by 45% between the last two quarters of 2017, compared to 38% in 2016.
The total number of RAC ‘pothole’ faults in all four quarters of 2017 exceeded the equivalent quarters 12 months earlier in 2016. And October to December of last year also saw the highest ever proportion of fourth quarter RAC breakdowns where poor quality road surfaces were likely be a factor, with 1.2% of all breakdowns associated with such faults – up from 0.8% in 2015 and 1% in 2016. Previously, the highest proportion of fourth quarter RAC ‘pothole’ breakdowns stood at 1.1% in 2013.
The RAC’s Pothole Index, a 12-month rolling measure of the share of pothole fault breakdowns compared to 2006, corrected for seasonal weather effects and improving longer term vehicle reliability, has risen again for the third successive quarter.
Using a base of 1.00 established in 2006, the Index for the fourth quarter of 2017 stood at 2.59 – with the higher the figure, the greater the likelihood of an RAC member suffering a breakdown caused by a pothole and so potentially the worse the standard of some roads.
The Index is now at its highest since the second quarter of 2016 suggesting that the condition of our roads has been declining steadily over the last 18 months – although at 2.59 it is thankfully still well below its peak of 3.5 reached in Q2 2010.