Pothole peril: time for a little understanding
Potholes, one of our least favourite things about driving. What is it about these hideous hazards that you should be aware of, other than the need to avoid them?
The problem with potholes
Potholes are a real danger on our roads. They can damage wheels, tyres, axles and suspensions, loose chippings from potholes can fly up and crack your windscreen and accidents could be caused by drivers swerving to avoid them, or motorcyclists riding into them.
Leaving plenty of room between you and the car in front and watching your speed could give you a better chance of seeing the vicious little things coming and help you avoid them. However, at night or in poor weather conditions, potholes can unfortunately lurk unseen until it's too late and you hit one.
Why do potholes keep coming back?
Potholes are caused when the road surface cracks, due to weather and traffic, and water seeps through to the sand and stone underneath. Here it begins to wash everything away and the road surface collapses, leaving a nasty hole right in the path of your wheels. The hole will continue to grow, gobbling up cars and bikes, until it is properly repaired.
Repairing a pothole is a bit like ironing a patch onto a pair of jeans where the bit round the edges will eventually wear away. Once this has happened the water will get in all over again (to the pothole, not your jeans). This is why the same potholes seem to keep popping up over and over again.
The way to prevent potholes forming in the first place is to repair the cracks in the road surface as soon as they start to appear. But someone has to pay for that. It's been estimated that the cost of bringing all the roads in the UK up to scratch would be £9.8billion. As fast as potholes are repaired, new ones open up, so it's an ongoing issue to find enough budget to cover the cost.
To raise awareness of the issues around road improvements and pothole problems, National Pothole Day (January 15th) was born! And it’s used as a platform to highlight how we need to take better care of the nation’s roads. It's also a good day to remember to report that annoying pothole you regularly come across.
What to do if you hit a pothole
If you're unfortunate enough to drive into a pothole, the first thing you should do is pull over somewhere safe and check for damage. It’s dangerous to drive with a flat tyre or wonky steering.
Next, make a note of where the pothole is so you can report it. Take a photo of it if you can do so safely. Reporting potholes is important for two reasons: it helps the people responsible for maintaining the roads, to know where to look and it supports your case if you need to make a claim from the Council.
Where to report potholes
Take care out there
Potholes are always worst in winter and coming into spring because of the weather, and the longer nights mean they’re harder to spot. Drive with care, reduce your speed at night which should give you a better chance of safely avoiding pothole peril.