By Danielle Boxall, Media Campaign Manager
If there’s one thing that drives motorists round the bend more than any other, it’s potholes. So potty in fact, that a recent RAC survey found it was UK drivers’ number one annoyance. It’s such a national obsession that every year on 15 January, families up and down the country celebrate National Pothole Day by gathering around their nearest road crater and taking turns to throw a penny in while making a wish.
Okay, I’ll admit families won’t be tossing coins tonight and perhaps National Pothole Day isn’t quite as well known as it should be. But today, motorists will certainly be wishing for one thing: that their local council gets itself together and fills in these cavernous cavities. Anyone that’s driven or been a passenger won’t be surprised to hear that according to the World Economic Forum, the UK’s road quality ranks 37th in the world, closely followed by Rwanda in 39th.
Motorists are already taxed excessively as it is, with Vehicle Excise Duty and fuel duty which has VAT charged on top of it! At the very least that should mean you can drive down the road without suffering thousands of pounds of avoidable damage to your car.
It’s not just motorists bemoaning these unsightly craters. Cycling is becoming evermore popular. In the first lockdown alone, 1.3 million people bought a bicycle. Even the Prime Minister himself is known to enjoy a good ride. But with our roads in such a state, it makes something as simple as exercising or commuting a perilous undertaking. Cyclists aren’t just risking a few bumps and scrapes - in just five years, over 250 died or received life changing injuries after accidents caused by potholes.
So what can be done? As well as scheduled inspections, local authorities accept reports of defects from the public. If there’s a particular pothole you have a gripe with, I would thoroughly recommend logging on to your council’s website and reporting it. Road maintenance eats a hefty chunk of local authorities’ budgets - English councils were given £4.9 billion to spend on highways and transport in 2019-20, the equivalent of filling 92,452,830 holes. But even so, if the council fails to repair a reported pothole and it causes damage or injury, the council can and should expect to pay compensation - and it’s much cheaper to repair them (about £53 per pothole) than to pay for life changing injuries.
It’s better for taxpayers too. Over £1.9 million of households’ money was squandered on these perfectly avoidable compensation cases in 2018. Not only is having an injury or damaging your vehicle painful, stressful and time consuming, it’s also painful to both yours and the public purse too. Accidents can lead to time off work, potentially costing businesses and putting even more strain on the NHS.
With the pandemic forcing people to stay at home and fewer cars on the roads, councils have the perfect opportunity to crack on with repairs. The government even committed £2.5 billion just for filling potholes in last year’s Budget. And whilst some local authorities got ahead of the game, it’s fair to say that cracks and craters in the road are still an everyday occurrence to the majority of the population. So while we’re all paying our taxes and staying indoors as much possible in this latest lockdown, councils must do everything they can to annihilate these atrocities and save our money.