Motoring advice: How to deal with potholes on the road

Motoring advice: How to deal with potholes on the road 23rd February 2015

During winter, frozen surfaces and ice are the major problems faced by British drivers. However, even after these subside, there are other issues that can arise, with the ice having left damage behind on the roads. When roads freeze and expand, potholes appear on the roads, leaving deep voids that can damage cars. 

On British roads, it's estimated that in the post winter months, there's a car damaged every 11 minutes by a pothole, and with councils struggling with repairs, how can you make sure you are protected?

How to avoid potholes

Hitting a pothole is quite literally a jarring experience, but it's far worse than just being a bit of a shock to the system and can cost you quite a bit of money in repairs, so it's best to try to be proactive than reactive. 

Driving to suit conditions just after winter, when potholes are most prevalent, will help. Simply reducing your speed will give you a lot longer to see the potholes and drive around them. Meanwhile, avoiding puddles which could be hiding potholes and keeping an eye on other drivers in case they swerve around potholes can help you avoid them. 

Another handy tip can be to keep hold of your winter tyres for a little longer. These generally have a thicker sidewall and are subsequently less likely to be damaged by potholes. 

Damage from potholes

According to Potholes.co.uk, potholes are responsible for as many as one in ten mechanical failures every year. RAC reports show that some £100 million is spent on these direct repairs every year, with some 50,000 cases recorded last winter. They are also a major factor in axle and suspension failure, which accounts for a third of repairs and costs British motorists a collective £2.8 billion every year. 

What to do if you hit a pothole

As soon as you hit a pothole, it's important to make sure the car is still in a good state to drive and will not compromise your safety. The first thing you should do is to give the steering wheel a little turn left and right to make sure steering has not been damaged, before pulling over in a safe place to check the tyres.

If your tyre has been punctured by the hit, you need to change it straight away. However, if there's any doubt at all, you should also have your wheels checked out by a professional. Damaged wheels can be very dangerous and cause real safety issues down the line. 

Compensation tips

If you've heard that dreaded thump when you hit a pothole, chances are your car will have been damaged, but it doesn't mean you need to foot the cost of repair. Local councils or whoever maintains the road is legally obliged to keep it in good health, and if they don't you can apply for compensation for repairs. 

The government has compiled a guide of how you can claim compensation:

First of all, you should obtain evidence of the pothole. If you can safely stop your car, take photographs of the pothole to prove it was there. Next, submit a Freedom of Information request to the local council to find out how often the road is checked and maintained. 

Next, get quotes for the cost of repairing your vehicle and then submit your claim for compensation to them in writing, telling them what the damage was, why you consider them responsible, where it happened and what it will cost you to repair your vehicle. 

Chances are your claim will be rejected under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, but don't be deterred. If you have gathered the correct evidence and you know you're in the right, stay calm and appeal, as well as preparing for the possibility of having to go to court. Finally, if you have been given an offer of compensation, be prepared to negotiate. You might not get the size of offer you were looking for, but if you are prepared to reason with the council, you may still get some compensation.

Posted by Danielle Barge