Review of 2011

AA rescues one in ten UK drivers during last 12 months

30 January 2012

AA rescues one in ten UK drivers during last 12 months

AA rescues one in ten UK drivers during last 12 months

In 2011, the AA handled more than 5.2 million breakdown calls and attended around 3.4 million call-outs – rescuing around one in ten drivers in the UK.

The milder weather last year saw the number of battery-related call-outs fall compared to 2010 – down 17% to around 450,000 cases – but it was still, by some margin, the most common breakdown in 2011.

Punctured or torn tyres was the second most common reason for calling out the AA, up 8% to more than 363,000 call-outs; and problems with lights rose by more than a fifth (22%) to around 162,000 call-outs.

Keith Miller, AA patrol of the year, comments on the increase in punctures: “Increasingly we’re seeing cars with barely any tread on the tyres. As well as being illegal and potentially dangerous, the tyre is much more likely to puncture. Members tell us that they have put off replacing them due to money worries.”

Keys, pets and children

Mechanical failure was not the only reason members called on the AA. Patrols also helped more than 40,000 members (up 11% on 2010) who had locked their keys in the car and rescued 2,482 children and 832 pets locked in cars.

Monday morning blues

Unsurprisingly, Monday was the busiest day of the week for breakdowns last year with an average of more than 10,800 breakdowns; while Thursday was the quietest weekday with around 9,300 on average. The busiest day overall was the return to work on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 with around 18,000 call-outs.

Keith says: “Mondays and breakdowns have always gone hand-in-hand, especially if accompanied by cold weather. The main issue is that all cars continue to draw current from the battery after the engine has been switched off, for things like the clock, alarm and immobiliser. If the battery was very low on charge when it was last used or nearing the end of its life, then 48 hours sitting idle can be enough to leave it incapable of starting on Monday morning. Cars used for short local journeys, like the school run, are particularly vulnerable.

“Build-up of damp is another reason, affecting ignition leads on older cars and other electrical components.”

Top ten

Top ten breakdowns in 2011 (AA roadside patrols only)

  1. Battery    450,000
  2. Tyres    363,000
  3. Lights    162,000
  4. Alternator    124,000
  5. Clutch    118,000
  6. Keys    103,000
  7. Starter motor    88,000
  8. Engine    68,000
  9. Brakes    56,000
  10. Fuel pump    53,000

Top breakdown facts of 2011

  • AA call handlers answered more than 5.2 million breakdowns calls
  • One-in-ten UK drivers rescued
  • 3.4 million breakdowns
  • 920,000 recoveries covering around 20 million miles
  • 160,000 rescues on a motorway
  • Busiest day - 18,000 call-outs on Tuesday, 4 January 2011
  • Busiest area - North-west central London with around 64,000 call-outs
  • Most northerly breakdown location - Haroldswick, Shetland
  • Busiest weekday - Monday
  • Quietest weekday - Thursday
  • Busiest patrol - Birmingham patrol Mohammed Ilyas attended around 3,000 breakdowns
  • Unusual call-outs included a car losing power after a squirrel stuffed the air intake with acorns in Hampshire; a 7ft boa constrictor stuck behind a dashboard in Essex; an unlucky black cat jammed in the engine bay in Hampshire; and a funny noise from a car in Essex that turned out to be a turtle-shaped back massager.
  • AA patrols have around 30,000 years of experience between them – averaging more than 10 years, around double the UK average – with Glasgow patrol Jim Haggart celebrating 45 years’ service at the roadside.
  • Best in UK: the AA was ranked the best breakdown provider Which? magazine’s annual survey
  • Best in Europe: patrols Keith Miller and Dave Freeman came top in the FIA Road Patrolmen Contest in Croatia.

Keith says: “Although modern cars have longer service intervals, the basics of car maintenance haven’t really changed, so it still pays to pop the bonnet and do the regular checks.

“However, although many breakdowns are preventable, often you have no control over it, potentially leaving you in a stressful and dangerous situation. Whether it’s on a Monday morning or a Sunday night, breakdown cover offers year-round peace of mind for far less than the cost of one-off emergency assistance from a garage.”

(2 February 2012)