Potholes: the shocking numbers behind a three-year epidemic

Potholes UK Epidemic

The UK’s pothole plight is by no means breaking news. Every other week, it seems we’re lamenting the state of our roads. Official local authority figures have circled the one million mark per year for the past three years, with a peak of 1,088,965 potholes recorded in 2016.

The 2019 budget (announced in October 2018) saw a £420 million pledge to local authorities to patch up our shattered roads. But what exactly are they up against?

The headline by-year figures above were obtained via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Yorkshire-based insurance provider The Insurance Emporium. It approached 205 local authorities, of which 175 responded.

Here’s a breakdown of the UK’s pothole epidemic from 2015-2018.

Potholes per kilometre

Potholes UK Epidemic

Scotland seems to suffer worst from potholes, with the top two per-kilometre locales being north of the border. The City of Edinburgh has struggled with 73 potholes per kilometre on average from January 2015 to April 2018, while Dundee is just behind at 69.

Moving down to Kirklees in Yorkshire, there’s a massive drop to 43 per kilometre on average. Sheffield is next with 39 per kilometre.

Only the next seven locales suffer with a per-kilometre pothole number that’s into double figures.

Numbers of potholes

The raw numbers of potholes are telling, also. Devon is way out in front, with 150,395 potholes covering 13,027 miles of road. That said, poor old Edinburgh comes second with 112,619 potholes covering just under an eighth of that mileage – 1,536 miles of road.

Northamptonshire and East Riding in Yorkshire are the only other two that are into six figures, with a respective 108,816 potholes over 4,635 miles of road, and 104,001 over 3,477 miles of road.

Potholes UK Epidemic

Professor Nicholas Thom, UK pothole expert, chalks the numbers up to various issues with how the roads are maintained.

“The number of potholes per kilometre on a given authority’s roads depends not only on the repair budget, repair strategy and the climate – frosts are bad news – but also on a historical policy choice, namely what surfacing materials to use. It is a choice that badly needs to be reviewed.”

What’s worse is that successfully claiming damage or injury as a result of damaged roads is seemingly quite difficult. Figures pertaining to cyclists’ claims show that just nine percent prevailed, among which personal and dental injuries comprised 16 percent and damage to the bike was 26 percent.

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