By Tim Groves
A new study has found that drivers are having to fork out around £1 billion for repairs to their vehicles as a result of damage caused by potholes.
Heavy rain and flooding have caused a number of issues on road surfaces across the UK in the past few years and research from Halfords Autocentres shows eight million vehicles per year have steering and suspension damage that could be caused by such problems.
That means that a motorist is affected every four seconds and the average repair costs as much as £135. Rory Carlin from Halfords Autocentres says it is a serious and growing concern, witth serious cases oif damage ending in car insurance claims.
He says that even a minor potholes can damage wheels, tyres and steering alignment but that it is the suspension that is most commonly affected and that there are three main reasons for the scale of the problem.
He insists the "inability of local authorities to keep pace with highway maintenance" is the main factor but that people are keeping cars for longer and they are therefore more susceptible to damage and the components used in repairs are now more complex, which means costs are higher.
The Highways Act does stipulate that the Highways Agency and local authorities have a duty of care to take reasonable measures to make sure that potholes are repaired.
However, if a driver wishes to claim the cost of a repair back from a council, they must prove that it has failed in that duty and that it does not have a robust system for dealing with road surface issues or meet the national recommended code of practice.
Clearly, this process takes time and is complicated and the vast majority of people do not bother trying to claim their costs back. Consequently, Mr Carlin says the problem is "hitting motorists hard".
And drivers in some areas of the country are hit harder than others, with those in the North East and the Midlands lumbered with repair bills of £181 million and £175 million respectively.
The potholes in Wales and the East of England are causing less costly damage though, with motorists paying a total of £53 million and £58 million respectively for repairs, although that may be due to lower traffic density rather than better quality roads.
The latest statistics from www.fillthathole.org.uk indicate that complaints to councils about potholes around the UK have soared by 60 per cent in the space of a year to a rate of 54 per day in December 2012.
Drivers can also visit www.potholes.co.uk to report damage to road surfaces and find more information and Mr Carlin says Halfords Autocentres are also trying to look at ways they can help people but he criticised the authorities for being "unable or unwilling to act".