HAMPSHIRE is the pothole complaint capital of England, beating neighbouring county, Surrey to take the car-damaging crown.
That’s according to a new analysis of road defects logged by members of the public since the start of 2019.The data has been compiled by website Fill That Hole, run by charity Cycling UK, which logs reports of potholes and passes the details to local authorities.
And while the reports were mostly made by cyclists, experts say it provides an important snapshot of the state of the UK’s decaying highways for all road users. For the year so far, Hampshire amassed 325 pothole complaints, compared to 285 for Surrey, 235 for Devon, 234 for Cheshire and 230 for Gloucestershire.
Many of the written reports feature potholes said to represent a threat to the lives of cyclists, amid descriptions of ‘gargantuan’ craters in the road.
Meanwhile James O’ Malley, Company Director of leading UK car leasing firm Select Car Leasing, says the situation is likely to get worse during a fast approaching winter forecasted to be the coldest in decades.
James said: “It’s vital councils get to grips with the ongoing threat posed by potholes as this is a problem that’s been steadily getting worse and worse for the last decade. And according to recent forecasts,with Britain apparently set for another cold winter, the state of the nation’s roads are set to deteriorate further still."
“Potholes are a danger to all road users and they cause untold damage to vehicles. As gaping chasms in the Tarmac become more and more widespread, it’s now virtually impossible to dodge them during your journey.”
Some of the Fill That Hole reports make for disturbing reading.
At present there are 4,092 ‘current’ hazards in Hampshire potholes and road defects that haven’t been rectified by the council, despite many of them having been on the list for several years.
One recent report from October 2 tells of a pothole on the A327 near Eversley that’s ‘hard to avoid/swerve without going into oncoming traffic.’
Another report in May tells of a deep ‘trench’ that appeared in Fareham that caused a motorist’s car to ‘bottom out’ while trying to drive across it.
Across all counties, reports tell of potholes that have sprung up around previous repairs, suggesting roadworks weren’t completed properly.
One report made in Alton, Hampshire, said, ‘A large pothole has appeared again where the road has been recently dug up. Liable to damage wheels and/or cause an accident.’
Others tell of harrowing accident risks. A log from October 14 in Southwark, London, tells of a ‘Pothole in cycle lane that fills with water. Saw a teenage cyclist wipe out due to it on the way to school.’
Another October report concerned the Croydon Flyover in Surrey, and explained, ‘Hit this in the dark. Seemed like a massive hole as it jolted the whole car. Two other cars had seemingly already hit it and possibly been damaged as they were stopped at the side of the road.’
Meanwhile, the other counties making up the pothole complaint top-10 are Kent, with 227 complaints from cyclists, Oxfordshire with 190, Greater Manchester with 181, Lancashire with 175 and Staffordshire with 156.
James O’Malley of Select Car Leasing said: “These figures are just the tip of the iceberg, as most reports come from just a small section of the cycling community.
“But they’re useful, as they’re indicative of a growing problem. The solution isn’t easy. Council’s facing budget cuts can’t suddenly magic the money for pothole repairs from thin air.
“Yet it’s clear to everyone using the roads that the system as it stands isn’t working and it’s likely the situation will get worse before it gets better.”
James recommends motorists make sure their tyres are correctly inflated as we head into the colder months, as under-inflated tyres are more susceptible to damage from potholes and other road imperfections, with wheels, steering and suspension components bearing the brunt of the damage.
James said: “In cold weather, your tyre pressure drops as the air inside contracts and shrinks. If a tyre is inflated to 29 PSI at 20C, it might only read 26 PSI at 0C.
“And properly inflated tyres - not too soft, and not too hard - is one of the best ways to limit pothole damage.
“If your tyre pressure is too high, the impact of a pothole isn’t transferred properly through the wheel, and it’s more likely to damage your vehicle’s suspension, resulting in damaged track rod ends, broken coil springs or even bent suspension wishbones.
“In winter, we should all be keeping a really close eye on our tyre pressures. Consult the recommended PSI in your vehicle’s handbook and check them at least once a week.”
Select Car Leasing say there’s another growing problem caused by potholes - and that’s motorists swerving into the path of oncoming vehicles to avoid them.
A recent survey Select conducted found a quarter of UK motorists - 23 per cent – had noted ‘other drivers drifting out of lane or over the middle divider line much more frequently’.
And of the fifth of motorists who admitted drifting lanes, 74 per cent reported attempting to avoid potholes, puddles and bumps as the biggest reason.
James adds: “We fear it’s a modern driving habit that’s becoming more and more ubiquitous.
“We’d previously seen anecdotal evidence in discussion on motoring forums - but now it’s been confirmed by our survey data.”
In August this year, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) revealed its own research findings into road holes, hitting local authorities with Freedom of Information requests to help get a fuller picture.
The FSB found almost 700,000 potholes and road defects were reported to councils in the preceding twelve months across England - up significantly from 616,557 in 2018.
Figures also show local authorities had spent almost £1billion fixing roads across the country.
James adds: “There has been lots of good research into the proliferation of potholes in the UK, and the vast majority of it paints a worrying picture.
“Pothole complaints are increasing year-on-year, and councils are being forced to spend increasingly more money on road repairs, however, the problem simply isn’t being solved.
“Compensation payouts to motorists whose cars have been damaged by potholes are also a huge burden, amounting to almost £2m in England each year.
“We’d urge the Government to grant more funds to local authorities so they can start to not only address the back-log of issues but to also make sure repairs are high quality and effective instead of making do with cheap road-fixes that disintegrate within a few months.”