Potholes are currently a significant issue in the UK. Experts warned, at the end of March 2023, that ONE IN FIVE roads in the UK could become undriveable in the next five years due to unfixed potholes. In what it has described as a crisis, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (*AIA) reported that almost 37,000 miles of road are now in a poor condition, with less than five years of life remaining.
Tending to appear after the winter months when freezing temperatures and thawing can cause roads to deteriorate. Potholes are formed by three elements: surface cracks, water and traffic. Small surface cracks form and expand over time with the action of traffic worsening the gap. Water then seeps through the surface, causing further deterioration which in cold climates is exacerbated by the freeze-thaw action.
The severity of the 2023 pothole problem varies by region and local council’s road maintenance plans, but the problem is far more noticeable this year due to many local authority highway teams only receiving around two-thirds of the funds they need to undertake the work. With councils also suffering from historic funding cuts and rising repair costs many simply cannot afford to keep on top of our fast-deteriorating roads.
Potholes are not good news for motorists
Potholes can cause considerable damage to vehicles and pose safety risks for drivers.
Damage caused by potholes includes:
- Tyre damage: Potholes can cause punctures or sidewall damage to tyres.
- Wheel damage: Hitting a pothole at speed can bend or crack alloy wheels.
- Suspension damage: The impact of driving over a pothole can damage the suspension system, including springs, shocks, and struts.
- Alignment issues: Potholes can knock wheels out of alignment, leading to uneven tyre wear and affecting the vehicle’s handling.
Our best advice for avoiding potholes:
- Stay alert: Pay attention to the road ahead and scan for any potholes or uneven surfaces.
- Maintain a safe distance: Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you to give yourself time to react to any potholes they might encounter.
- Slow down: Reduce your speed when approaching areas with a higher likelihood of potholes, such as damaged or poorly maintained roads.
- Be cautious in wet weather: Potholes can be more difficult to see when roads are wet, so exercise extra caution during rainy conditions.
If your vehicle is damaged through hitting a pothole it is possible to file a claim for compensation against the respective local council. But get your facts straight as the process is long and arduous. For a pothole to be classed as ‘unsafe’ it needs to be either over 22mm deep on the pavement or over 40mm deep on the road. The council must also have either neglected to repair the pothole if they were aware of it or have neglected to perform routine maintenance checks to identify the pothole in the first place.
As far as repairing the potholes goes, Limegate recommends using an appropriate asphalt or cold patching material. Asphalt is a particularly durable and low-maintenance specialist surface that we use for roadways, car parks, paths and other areas including school playgrounds. As an accredited installer of the Highway Authorities Product Approval Scheme (HAPAS), we lay the naturally smooth surface by hand or by machine with thermoplastic road markings along with a high friction surfacing treatment to prevent future damage.
The future of our roads
Longer term, addressing the deepening pothole crisis requires a multi-faceted approach involving all the various stakeholders, including government authorities, local councils, and road maintenance agencies. As a top line there needs to be increased funding, either through more government spending or exploring alternative funding models. PLUS:
Implementation of a comprehensive and regular inspection regime to identify and prioritise pothole repairs. Such a proactive approach would help identify potholes before they worsen and cause more damage.
Ensuring identified potholes are repaired within an agreed timeframe to prevent them from expanding and causing further damage. This requires efficient coordination between local councils and road maintenance teams.
Development and implementation of long-term strategies for road maintenance and future investment. This might involve adopting innovative technologies and materials that provide more durable and long-lasting road surfaces.
Encouraging public participation by providing channels for reporting potholes and collecting feedback from drivers to help identify potholes that may have been missed during inspections and improve response times.
Collaboration between authorities
Fostering relations between the different authorities responsible for road maintenance, including local councils, highway agencies, and utility companies. Coordination would help minimise disruptions caused by multiple repairs in the same area.
Research and innovation
Investment in R&D of new materials and techniques to improve the durability and resilience of road surfaces. This includes exploring alternative materials and construction methods that are more resistant to pothole formation.
Public awareness and education
Raising public awareness about the impact of potholes and educating drivers about safe driving practices to avoid damage. Encouraging responsible reporting of potholes would also help prioritise repairs.
In summary, it’s important to note that addressing the pothole crisis requires sustained effort and collaboration between various stakeholders. There is no single solution, but a combination of these approaches would go a long way towards mitigating the problem and improving the overall condition of UK roads.