Pothole Claims Increase

Chances are that since the snows crippled Britain's roads, you might have found your car crippled by a pothole. In fact, claims statistics from AA Insurance suggest that Britain's crumbling roads are inflicting record damage on cars – with pothole-related claims trebling in a year.

Simon Douglas, director of AA Insurance, says it takes a particularly nasty pothole to cause insurance-claimable damage to a car. "Every winter brings a small wave of claims for pothole damage but we've seen the number of claims treble," he says.

Damage claims

AA Car Insurance estimates that around 2,000 drivers nationwide claimed for pothole damage to their cars in February 2009 – up from around 700 last February. Thousands more will have suffered more minor damage, for which it's not worth claiming. Many motorists may not even realise that their steering and suspension system might be damage after that sickening 'thump' as the wheel hits a hole in the road.

The carnage comes as the AA estimates that the winter's icy weather has caused a 40% increase in road damage, pushing the number of potholes in the UK up to an amazing 1.5 million.

Simon Douglas says: "Like any injury, a pothole that doesn't receive first-aid will brood and grow into a gaping open sore on the road, inflicting damage to wheels, suspension and bodywork. Worse than that, they often become invisible by filling up with water in wet weather so you have little chance of avoiding them.

"Cars with alloy wheels and low-profile tyres are particularly prone to damage while some potholes are so huge that they cause damage to valances and sills, rupture suspension and steering and even rip off exhaust systems."

Tip of the iceberg

Simon Douglas believes the upsurge in claims is just the tip of the iceberg and thousands of motorists are suffering in silence, because the cost of damage doesn't justify an insurance claim.

This might include loss of balance weights, putting wheel tracking out and damaged tyres and the symptoms might be shaking or vibration coming through to the steering wheel, the car pulling to one side or the steering wheel not being 'centred' when driving in a straight line.

If you do hit a pothole:

  • visit your tyre dealer
    • get the balance and tracking checked
    • ask them to do a visual check under the car to see if there is additional damage

    not doing so quickly can lead to excessive tyre wear and increased fuel consumption

  • you can also claim against the appropriate highway authority for damage to your car.

AA President Edmund King adds: "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 did indeed suffer an unusually severe winter but the poor state of our local roads has visibly become worse.

"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."

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

Last updated: 2 April 2009