Pothole damaged vehicle claims double in past 12 months

Number of claims for damage reaches five-year high; average costs of payout stands at £311

Motorists made 1,089 claims for damage caused by pothole strikes on motorways and major A roads in 2017/18, up from 542 in 2016/17.

The figures come from a Freedom of Information request made to Highways England, the government-owned company responsible for the nation’s 4,300 miles of motorway and strategic trunk roads.

Highways England’s data also revealed that of the 1,089 claims made, 528 were successful, meaning the organisation paid out £164,341 in compensation, with an average single payout of £311.25, including legal costs. In the previous financial year, 212 claims were upheld, resulting in a total payout of £60,012, averaging £283.07 each.

• Pothole claims: how to claim for pothole damage to your car

In 2017/18, Highways England filled in 16,642 potholes – up from 3,308 in 2013/14. This is in spite of the road maintenance budget seeing an overall decrease over the same period from £248.7m to £209.3m.

YearRoad maintenance budgetNumber of potholes filledTotal number of claimsNumber of claims upheldTotal cost of paying claimsAverage cost of each claim2017/18£209.3m16,6421,089528£164,341£311.252016/17£214.3m10,878542212£60,012£283.072015/16£277.5m10,342527187£54,301£290.382014/15£246.9m9,036591242£72,827£300.942013/14£248.7m3,308748273£73,157£267.94

As potholes can cause expensive damage to a car’s shock absorbers, suspension and wheels, it’s no surprise the state of the UK’s roads is the top concern of motorists in this country.

• Potholes costing drivers £1 million a month

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These numbers show that potholes and the damage they cause are not confined to local roads but afflict our most important and, overall, best funded routes too.

“Highways England’s roads carry a third of all traffic – and two thirds of lorries – which means not only that potholes develop rapidly under the onslaught of so many vehicles but that there are only limited opportunities to repair them given that lane closures at almost any time of day are going to cause disruption to someone.

“We must ensure that we give as much attention to looking after the roads we’ve already got as we do to funding large-scale building of new roads.”

A spokeswoman for Highways England called safety the company’s “top priority”, adding: “We set stringent standards for pothole repairs on our roads, and also regularly inspect our roads to help reduce the potential for potholes to form.”

Councils pay out £43 million in pothole compensation

Local councils paid out £43.3 million in compensation over five years for pothole-related injuries and damage, fresh data has revealed.

A series of Freedom of Information requests sent to local highways agencies found 30,893 drivers and 670 cyclists submitted successful claims in the last five years, with authorities paying out an average of £277,707 in compensation over that period. Almost £10 million was spent on legal fees by councils.

The average amount paid to drivers was £841, with cyclists receiving an average of £10,963. The charity Cycling UK, which carried out the research, said higher payouts for cyclists indicated cycling claims were more likely to include a personal injury element.

A total of 156 local highways agencies responded to requests for information, but the total payouts made by councils is likely to be much higher than £43.3 million – not least because agencies in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales did not respond to Cycling UK’s requests.

The charity also cited a survey that found just 36 per cent of cyclists injured by potholes reported the incident, with most saying complaining to councils about potholes was too difficult.

• How to claim pothole damage for you car

Sam Jones, Cycling UK’s senior campaigns officer said: “It’s clear more people are being killed and seriously injured while out cycling each year due to years of persistent under investment in our rotting local road networks. The Government should concentrate on fixing the roads we have first before building new ones. Councils need provide enough funding to adopt long-term plans for roads maintenance, rather than pursuing a policy of patching up streets only as they become dangerous.”

Government sets £100 million aside for winter pothole damage

The Department for Transport is to pump a further £100 million into the Pothole Action Fund to fix roads damaged by the recent cold snap. 

The money will mean almost two million potholes will be fixed, and follows recent warnings local roads are facing of a “tidal wave of deterioration” that could see one in eight close within a year if vital repairs aren’t carried out. The report, from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, found councils are facing a £556 million annual funding shortfall for local roads.

While councils will likely welcome the extra money, some have questioned if it is a significant enough amount. Howard Cox, founder of FairFuelUK said: “This amount of money is a raindrop in the ocean and will not cut it with drivers dodging the deepening grand canyons on our roads.”

Of the £100 million announced today, £2.5 million has already been allocated to Devon county council to fix the A379, which was badly damaged by Storm Emma back in March.

The extra cash sits on top of £75 million fed into local roads funding the year, becoming part of the £250 million Pothole Action Fund announced in 2016.

Commenting on the £100 million funding boost for potholes, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We have seen an unusually prolonged spell of freezing weather which has caused damage to our local roads. We are giving councils even more funding to help repair their roads so all road users can enjoy their journeys without having to dodge potholes.” 

Highways England believes autonomous cars could one day report potholes to authorities automatically. Read the full story…

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