The 'pothole plague' in the UK has taken a toll on drivers, with RAC patrols attending nearly 30,000 pothole-related breakdowns in 2023, marking a significant increase of 33% compared to 2022. The motoring services company responded to 29,377 breakdowns over the year, equivalent to 80 breakdowns daily, addressing issues such as broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers, and distorted wheels. The RAC has said that things need to change urgently.
New Data Paints Dismal Picture
The latest data from the fourth quarter of 2023 reveals that drivers had called the RAC out for 5,153 breakdowns caused by potholes, marking the highest figure for any October to December period since 2017. Concerns are now rising because the colder months of the 'pothole season' – January to March have arrived, bringing the risk of water entering road cracks, freezing, and expanding, further deteriorating road surfaces.
The RAC Pothole Index, which monitors the condition of Britain's roads, has risen to 1.70 from 1.62 at the end of 2022. Although this is not as high as the all-time high of 3.5 recorded in Q1 2010, the index suggests that drivers are now more than one-and-a-half times as likely to experience pothole damage as they were 15 years ago.
Serious Danger for Drivers and Bike Riders
Simon Williams, Head of Policy at RAC, highlighted the serious dangers potholes pose to road users, emphasising that the issue will likely worsen in colder weather. He pointed out that he did recognise the financial strain placed on local councils due to lower road maintenance budgets. However, this cannot continue as the lack of money leads to roads falling into disrepair and leaving drivers seeking compensation for vehicle damage, placing further strain on the bank of the local authority. .
Williams acknowledged the government's commitment to providing an additional £8.3 billion in funding to local councils over the next 11 years. He urged the Department for Transport to offer clear guidance on how this funding should be utilised for consistent long-term maintenance. To address the immediate concerns in winter months, he begged local highway authorities to resurface roads in the worst condition and conduct more surface dressing between April and September.
Meet Stan the AI Pothole Man
In a proactive approach to address road surface problems like potholes, the RAC is collaborating with technology company Metricell to launch the 'Stan' mobile app. The app, available for free, uses smartphone video cameras to collect data on road conditions automatically. The app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify over 40 defects, including potholes, road cracking, and broken signs. The data collected will contribute to a national roadmap of surface issues available on the RAC and Stan websites. Metricell will also share this data with highway authorities to facilitate prompt and efficient repairs.
As the call for better road maintenance gains momentum, the partnership between the RAC and Metricell aims to empower drivers and authorities to work collectively towards addressing the challenges posed by potholes and ensuring safer journeys for all road users.