COUNCILS IN areas worst hit by the winter storms are now facing a flood of compensation claims from motorists whose cars have been damaged by potholes.
The holes, which can damage wheels and suspension as well as burst tyres, develop when rain or flood water collects in cracks on the road surface. Recent estimates suggest the annual repair bill for the UK’s potholes is £750m.
Somerset, which experienced some of the greatest flooding last winter, has seen claims for pothole damage rise by 750% ‒ from 24 in the last two months of 2013, to 204 in January and February 2014. In the same period, Worcester saw claims rise 400%, Surrey 353% and Dorset 127%.
The figures were revealed by councils following a freedom of information request by potholes.co.uk, a campaign group, and vehicle warranty supplier Motor Warranty Direct. The website claimed that in January and February it received more than 1,500 reports of potholes across the UK.
In an effort to alert motorists to the presence of potholes, it has created a sign to be placed ahead of a damaged road.
David Gerrans, managing director of Motor Warranty Direct, said: “If road signs can warn of falling rocks from above, then why not craters below? The average bill for pothole damage now runs at £247, so a sign only needs to stop a couple of incidents to justify the expenditure.”
Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “Councils have worked hard to fix another 2m potholes this year and are facing funding cuts and multi-million pound compensation claims. The Government has responded to our calls for extra funding to repair our roads in recent months but it is simply not enough to free councils trapped in an endless cycle of only being able to patch up our deteriorating network.”
A spokesman added that motorists would be unlikely to support the idea of a new road sign warning of potholes if it came at the cost of repairing them.