England’s potholes are almost 15 times deeper than the Grand Canyon, according to data obtained by the Federation of Small Businesses. The headline grabbing comparison used the combined depth of the 700,000 new potholes reported in 2018/19 to come up with the total of 28km, which is incidentally also three times greater than the height of Mount Everest.
While potholes are indeed an eyesore, in complete contrast to the aforementioned wonders of the world, they are also costing motorists millions. According to a study from Kwik Fit, potholes caused damage to vehicles costing a total of £915 million to repair in the year to March 2018.
What percentage of breakdowns are pothole related?
Breakdown firm the RAC maintains a pothole index, an indicator of the health of the UK’s roads, which suggests the number of pothole-related breakdowns was lowest in 2006, the first year they collected the data. Indeed, last year drivers were 1.7 times more likely to breakdown as a result of pothole-related damage than in 2006.
- In the three months to the end of 2019, they attended more than 2,000 pothole-related breakdowns – 300 more than in the same period in 2018.
- In total, they recorded just under 9,200 pothole-related faults in 2019, such as distorted wheels, broken suspensions springs and damaged shock absorbers.
- This represents 1.1% of all breakdowns attended.
In the 2019 RAC Report on Motoring:
- 49% of drivers said they think the condition and maintenance of local roads (not motorways or major A-roads) has got even worse over the past 12 months.
- Only 10% said roads in their area had improved.
- And 40% said there was no real change.
How to claim compensation if your car is damaged by a pothole
If you hit a pothole that the council should have fixed, either because it had been reported or they had noted it during inspections, then you are within your rights to seek compensation.
Bear in mind that potholes that are 40mm or below – the equivalent of two 20p pieces stacked on top of each other – don’t qualify according to Government guidelines introduced in October 2016.
Here’s what you need to know, according to the AA:
If you hit a pothole:
Pull over as soon as is safe and check for any damage to your wheels and tyres
If no damage is obvious straight away, keep an eye out for vibrations, your steering wheel not centring properly or the car pulling to one side.
If this is happening, get your car checked by a garage or tyre specialist as soon as possible as ignoring tracking or steering damage can cost you – and be dangerous.
Also, get your mechanic to put in writing his findings.
Take notes. The AA warns not to rely on your memory
They suggest returning to the scene, taking notes, making sketches and – if safe to do so – taking photographs of the pothole in question.
It’s a good idea to include a familiar object in your photo, like a shoe or drinks can, to give a sense of scale.
Make a note of exactly where the pothole was – the road name, town etc and its position in the road – as well as the contact details of anyone who saw what happened.
Report the pothole
Whether you intend to make a claim for damage or not, your first priority should be to report the pothole to your council.
They can then arrange repairs and prevent any other similar incidents.
Motorways and A roads in the UK are managed by Highways England so you would need to write to them.
Repair your car
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Once repaired – Make your claim
Write to the council responsible for the road with all the details you’ve collected, including copies of your quotes, invoices and receipts.
If your vehicle already had a problem, and the pothole made it worse, you can still claim but you won’t get the full repair costs back.
It’s important to note that an authority doesn’t have to pay out if it didn’t know about the pothole beforehand, ie, it hadn’t been reported to them or they hadn’t noticed it.
Didn’t work? You can appeal
By law, councils have to carry out road inspections and repairs. So if your claim’s rejected you can even ask to see details of the council’s road inspection reports and attempt a reclaim.
Here are the contact details for Greater Manchester councils:
Manchester City Council
Environment On Call, PO Box 204, Manchester
Tel: 0161 234 5004
Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council
Highways Management Division, Environment Department, 4th floor, Wellsprings Civic Centre, Bolton
Tel: 01204 336600
Bury Metropolitan Borough Council
Customer Services, Environment & Development Services, Lester House, 21 Broad Street , Bury
Tel: 0161 253 5353
Fax: 0161 253 5851
Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
Enviromental Services, Oldham Council, Civic Centre, West Street, Oldham
Tel: 0161 9114325
Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council
Network Development – Highways & Engineering Services, Electric House, Smith Street, Rochdale
Tel: 01706 864522/864644
Salford City Council
Engineering & Highways, Salford Civic Centre, Chorley Road, Swinton, SALFORD
Tel: 0161 909 6505
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
Highways Development Team. Stockport Town Hall, Edward Street , Stockport
Tel: 0800 068 4996
Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council
Council Offices, Wellington Road, Ashton-under-Lyne
Tel: 0161 342 8355
Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council
Highway Services PO Box 114 Bridgewater House Manchester Road Carrington
Tel: 0161 912 2000
Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council
Department of Engineering Services, Highway Maintenance Section, Civic Buildings, New Market Street, Wigan
Tel: 01942 404347