There has been a 4.5 per cent increase in the number of pothole-related breakdowns in the first quarter of 2020, new data reveals.

According to figures from the latest RAC Pothole Index, the organisation’s patrols assisted some 3,426 motorists who had broken down after hitting a pothole in the first three months of this year. That compares with 2,376 in January to March 2019.

It’s also in spite of the coronavirus lockdown coming into force on 23 March, so the last nine days of that month saw far less traffic – and, therefore, fewer breakdowns – than there would normally have been. If there had been no lockdown, the number of pothole-related breakdowns would have been even higher.

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The Department for Transport confirmed to Auto Express that councils can continue to fill in potholes during the coronavirus lockdown, as long as they follow the latest advice from Public Health England. A spokesperson said: “We know potholes make life a misery for road users, and we are working closely with authorities across the local highways maintenance sector to support them as they continue to work to existing plans.”


During the first quarter of 2020, pothole-related breakdowns – which commonly involve damaged shock absorbers, broken springs and distorted wheels – were the cause of 1.6 per cent of RAC patrol callouts. This is up from 1.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2019.

The number of pothole-related breakdowns in the first quarter of 2020 represented a 64 per cent increase from the last quarter of 2019, but this is perfectly normal. Winter weather always takes a significant toll on the UK’s roads, resulting in a large increase such as this.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, said: “While millions of cars are mostly confined to streets and driveways during the coronavirus lockdown, people are more reliant than ever on their vehicles to buy food and important household items. 

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“The last thing any driver needs on the way to do their essential weekly shop is to suffer a nasty pothole-related breakdown that puts their car out of action, especially with fewer garages open than usual. This means the quality of local roads is, ironically, as important as ever.

“In his Budget in March,” Lyes added, “the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads, and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure, which of course needs to include good-quality roads. 

“Moreover, it will also be interesting to see if lower traffic volumes during the UK’s lockdown will help prevent further deterioration of roads, as fewer wheels going over weaknesses in the asphalt should contribute to less surface wear.”

What do you think about the state of UK roads? Let us know in the comments…

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