Pothole damage costing motorists £1.25 billion

Source: Kwik Fit

UK motorists spent a total of £1.25 billion repairing pothole damage to their vehicles over the last year, reveals research published this week by Kwik Fit. This research from Walnut (formerly ICM) indicates that more than 10.8 million vehicles in the UK were damaged in the last 12 months due to poor road conditions. The costs to motorists for such damage over the last three years amounts to an astonishing £3.4 billion.

The average bill for each motorist affected over the last year was £115, covering repairs to components such as tyres, suspension and wheels. Kwik Fit believes the total cost identified by the research is likely to rise even further, as 13 per cent of drivers who suffered damage said they haven’t yet had the damage repaired. With the coronavirus causing financial uncertainty for many, it is likely those repairs will be put off for some time to come.

Of the 2,011 people surveyed, 26 per cent said they hit more than 30 potholes over the course of a month – an average of one a day. Furthermore, 32 per cent of the drivers who’ve hit a pothole in the last year say it caused damage, with the most common items needing repair being tyres, wheels, suspension and steering.

Almost the entire cost of those repairs has had to be borne by motorists or their insurers as a mere £8.1 million (0.7 per cent of the total) was refunded to drivers in compensation from local authorities (ALARM figures for England and Wales). While responding to coronavirus is going to be a huge drain on public resources, Kwik Fit says it is interesting to note that in the longer term, many drivers say they’d be prepared to pay higher council taxes if it guaranteed improved road conditions.

Kwik Fit found that 55 per cent of drivers who suffered damage would be prepared to pay more council tax, with the average driver willing to stump up 12.5 per cent more. Those who haven’t suffered pothole damage in the last year would be less willing, with only 34 per cent happy to pay more council tax to fund road repairs, with the average acceptable increase just 4.8 per cent on top of their current bill.

Of all drivers, Londoners would be willing to pay the highest increase in council tax. This is likely to be a result of the capital’s drivers being hit with the largest bill for repairs. Last year, London motorists had to cover a cost of £307,231,000 for pothole damage, a rise of 50 per cent on the previous year. Other regions which have seen rises are the South East, and South West, while the total cost to drivers in the North West, Eastern, East Midlands regions and Wales have remained relatively static year on year.

The Kwik Fit-commissed study has some comparatively good news for drivers in Scotland, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and the North East, where the total cost has decreased from last year, but even here, drivers were still faced with a collective bill of £360 million.

56 per cent of people travelling on UK roads believe they are in worse condition now compared to a year ago, up from 51 per cent of people who were asked the same question last year. And the majority of road users in the country don’t feel that there will be significant improvement any time soon. When asked about the Government’s recently announced £2.5 billion five year pothole fund, 56 per cent said that this would have a slight or no impact on the number of potholes. The experience of drivers reflects the latest ALARM report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which highlights that a one-off spend in excess of £11 billion is needed to bring the network back up to scratch.

“Unfortunately, every year we are seeing a worsening story when it comes to the condition of our roads and it is the individual motorist who is hit increasingly hard,” said Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit. “The immediate impact of coronavirus will mean the demands on public spending will be many, but this should not mask the fact that roads have been underfunded year after year. Once we are out of this crisis, as a country we need to plan investment for the long term and not merely look to patch things over the cheapest possible way.

“For any motorists hitting a pothole, we are operating as normally as possible, so if they have any concerns over potential damage to their car, they should come into one of our centres. We’ll be able to inspect their car while keeping social distancing measures in place and ensure that their car is safe should they need it in an emergency.”

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