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Pothole perils – repair efforts sink as the cost to motorists rise

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· Cash-strapped councils face an estimated £14 billion repair backlog

· Motorists are at risk of expensive and dangerous damage to their vehicles

· Compensation varies, with some local authorities paying out ‘next to nothing’

We're warning drivers to be on the look-out for dangerous potholes on their journeys. This message comes as council budgets for compensation fall by more than a half*, with potholes across the country remaining unrepaired for months at a time†.

The latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance report3 suggests 18 per cent of local roads (37,000 miles) are judged to be in poor condition and risk becoming undriveable within the next five years. A further 100,000 miles of local road would need to be rebuilt in the next 15 years.

GEM road safety adviser James Luckhurst said: “We want to help drivers stay safe on their road journeys, as well as reducing the risk of causing expensive damage to their cars.

“Potholes have a significant financial impact on motorists, who most of the time must bear the cost of repairs to paintwork, suspension and tyres – even though they have already paid for local road maintenance through their council tax.

“There is no consistent national policy among councils as to where or not they will compensate drivers for damage caused by potholes. Those drivers who can’t afford to pay for their repairs risk making journeys in vehicles that are potentially unsafe.”

GEM is offering advice that will not only help to keep drivers safe on their journeys but will also assist them in dealing with the consequences of pothole damage:

Stay safe on the road

1. Always be aware of dangerous potholes on your regular journeys. If necessary, find an alternative route.

2. Remember to keep your distance from the car in front. Motorists will often brake or swerve suddenly if they have spotted a pothole too late, so ensure you are far enough away to slow down safely.

3. Make sure you stick to the speed limit, and slow down on smaller roads and residential streets where potholes may be prevalent. Hitting a pothole at speed will cause much more damage to your vehicle.

4. Never swerve to avoid a pothole; always slow down or stop completely if necessary, checking that there are no cars close behind you. Drive over the pothole slowly or steer round it if it’s safe to do so.

Get something done

1. Help your local authority and report any dangerous potholes that are causing problems in the area.

2. Your local council website will guide you to the right procedure for reporting a pothole.

3. Cycling UK’s Fill that Hole website is a national portal available for anyone to report pothole damage.

4. Main roads are the responsibility of national agencies such as National Highways. Go to www.gov.uk/report-pothole or call them on 0300 123 5000. This number is available 24 hours a day.

Build a case

1. If you believe you have a valid claim for pothole damage, make sure you are able to give the exact location of the offending pothole.

2. Note when you went through it, what direction you were travelling and approximately how wide and deep you believe it to have been.

3. If it’s safe, stop and examine the pothole. Take photographs if you can, but don’t put yourself or anyone else at risk in the process.

4. Obtain quotes for any repairs that may be required. Keep copies of these, along with receipts and invoices, if they form part of your claim. Then write to the local authority, including all the details and requesting a settlement of your claim.

5. Expect a rejection, as the local authority will most likely explain that it has a system of regular inspection and repair. But you can check what the council may be liable for, and can take steps to make sure they are carrying out the system they claim to have.

6. If you feel your case is strong enough, it may be worth getting legal advice or taking your case to the small claims court. However, be aware that it could end up being a lengthy and costly process.

* Highways Magazine, 05/02/24

Eastern Daily Press

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