Snow and ice cause 40% increase in road damage

16 February 2009

road damage has increased by 40% as a result of the recent snow and ice

An estimated 40% increase in road damage from the last fortnight's severe weather has pushed the number of potholes in the UK up to one and a half million, the AA fears.

Soaring claims

Claims against local highway authorities and insurance companies are expected to soar way above normal – last year councils paid out £65 million in compensation. Even so, many drivers and riders will be left out in the cold by claims being rejected by highway authorities or below insurance excess levels.

AA insurance claims

AA Insurance has received more than three times as many claims for pothole damage this February than last.

Most claims concern damage to wheels, particularly alloy wheels shod with low-profile tyres.

Maintenance backlog

Although potholes are inevitable after severe weather, the UK teeters on local road collapse from a maintenance backlog that was already going to cost £1 billion and take 11 years to put straight – before this winter.

Local authorities have blitzed potholes by filling them as they appear in recent years. 853,6141 potholes were filled-in last year at an average cost of £69 each. However, restoring the road surface and stopping the re-emergence of potholes through proper maintenance has lagged by an ever-increasing amount.


Notorious pothole hotspots identified by AA patrols include: Ashford in Middlesex, Acton in London, Ipswich, Felixstowe, Stowmarket, Botley and Hedge End in Southampton, Basingstoke, Bournemouth, Ringwood, the New Forest, and Salisbury.

Pothole survey

AA breakdown patrols are beginning to map the newer hazards – and the old ones that have re-emerged – and are also reporting pothole related damage to vehicles they are having to rescue.

The AA is also asking drivers and riders to help identify Britain's worst potholes by taking part in the online discussion at www.theaa.com/zone.

AA comment

Commenting AA President, Edmund King said "Once again the fabric of our local roads is a major cause for concern with surfaces crumbling and drivers and riders at risk of damage to their vehicles and even themselves. We have gone from a salt crisis to a hole crisis. We have indeed had a bad winter but the poor state of our local roads has visually got worse in the last few weeks.

"Ultimately we will all pay more through having to once again patch and mend, and then pay out compensation rather than fixing the underlying poor condition of many of our roads. I urge all drivers and riders to take care - an innocuous looking puddle may actually be a deep pothole that places you and your vehicle at risk."

Damage caused

Most common damage is to alloy wheels as these are softer and particularly vulnerable when fitted with low profile tyres.

Water-filled potholes are a real hazard – the AA has seen claims where the driver simply thought it was a puddle or a deep pothole was concealed by a wet road or slush.

Sports cars with low valances will be more vulnerable to body damage.

Only severe damage will result in an insurance claim. The most likely result of hitting a pothole isn't so severe but can compromise safety and economy.

After hitting a pot-hole you may find the steering pulls to one side; the steering wheel vibrates/wobbles or in extreme cases that the steering wheel isn't 'centred' when the car is going in a straight line.

Damage caused could exacerbate tyre wear, increase fuel consumption, upset the geometry of the car and increase the risk of losing control in an emergency.

Tyre damage is possible too – keep an eye out for blisters which would indicate damage to the tyre wall if it doesn't suffer a puncture or other damage at the time.

If you suspect damage caused by driving over a pothole the AA recommends that you take the car to a tyre dealer and get the tracking and wheel balance checked and ask them to look to see if there is any other obvious damage (such as to track rods etc. which may require attention from a garage).

Potholed? How to make a claim

  1. Remember, Highway Authorities have a statutory defence as they cannot be held liable for defects they do not know about and have not picked up in regular checks – they are supposed to keep inspection records. A Highways Authority may be liable if they have not acted after receiving a defect report
  2. If you suffer vehicle or other damage due to a pothole make sure the authorities are notified straight away if the defect is serious. Take a note of key details e.g. place, location of defect, its size shape and depth – ideally take photographs. Get 'witness' details
  3. Report the defect as soon as possible. Many councils have websites and special phone lines to help with this
  4. Get quotes for repair or get repairs done – keep quotes, bills and receipts
  5. Write to the highway authority responsible for that stretch of road with all the details
  6. If your claim is rejected and you feel this is unfair ask to see road inspection reports, and try again to claim. If the damage is very expensive, seek legal advice
  7. Most claims may be below a level worth making an insurance claim


1Asphalt Industry Alliance Alarm Survey 2008

In an AA Populus panel survey conducted in 2008 sixty four per cent of AA members across Britain said road surfaces were in a worse condition than they were 10 years ago and 40 per cent said they were much worse.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


24 February 2009