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10% increase in pothole complaints

A road full of potholesPotholes are a menace for all road users and the situation is getting worse.

There has been a 10 per cent increase in complaints about potholes, according to new research.

And government funding cuts mean that two-thirds of local authorities are still unable to make good the damage caused by the winter of 2010-11.

These are the key findings from the 17th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey which looks at the state of local roads.

"The real problem is the ongoing underfunding from the government," says Alan MacKenzie, chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which carries out the annual survey.

He adds: "We propose planned preventative maintenance rather than the current 'patch and mend' approach."

Funding Problems

Last year local authorities filled a total of 1.7 million potholes, at an average cost of £55 each, according to the survey.

In England and Wales the total cost for pothole repairs came to almost £90m.

However, cuts in local government funding means that there is less money available for road repair.

So unless central government puts in more funds - the AIA says the cost of bringing the UK's roads up to a reasonable condition would be nearly £10bn - the pothole plague isn't likely to go away.

Pothole plague

There are currently an estimated two million potholes in the UK and road users are fully aware of how annoying they can be.

But why does the UK have so many and why are their numbers increasing?

Potholes are caused by general wear and tear on the roads, and also by a process called 'freeze-thaw'.

This is when a crack appears in the road surface and is filled with water, which in cold weather will then freeze and expand, making the pothole bigger.

The UK's climate, which alternates in winter between relatively mild and very cold weather, contributes to the road damage.

Reporting potholes

The Highways Agency is responsible for pothole repairs on motorways and major A-roads.

Local authorities are responsible for minor roads - which account for 90 per cent of roads in the country.

If a local authority is aware of a dangerous pothole, it is duty-bound to deal with it, so take details of the location and pass the information on to the local council for that area.

Vehicle damage

Potholes put motorists at risk as it can be difficult to maintain control of your vehicle when travelling over bumpy roads.

They can also cause damage to tyres, from punctures to damage to the tread which can throw off your steering.

The suspension can be affected and chips thrown up from potholes can scratch your car's bodywork and windscreen.

If your vehicle is damaged by driving over a pothole, you can make a claim for compensation from the Highways Agency or local authority responsible for the road.

However, it can be difficult as you have to prove that the damage was caused by that particular pothole, so it's important to take photos both of the hole and your car, together with other relevant facts. has put together a useful guide on what to do if your car suffers damage as a result of potholes.

Vulnerable road users

Potholes also pose a danger to more vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.

It's important for drivers to realise that cyclists and motorcyclists could be thrown off track by a pothole and to allow for that by giving them more space.

Primrose Potholes

While the rest of us struggle with the pothole problem, artist Pete Dungey uses them as inspiration for his 'Pothole Gardens'.

This is a series of public installations highlighting the problem of surface imperfections in Britain's roads.

What do you think?

Have you had problems with potholes? Or perhaps you've claimed compensation for damage to your vehicle caused by a pothole?

We'd love to hear from you. You can leave your comments on the message board below.

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

View more from Maria

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