Potholes: what causes them and how do you claim for pothole damage?

Driving into potholes can cause serious damage to your car. But what causes potholes? And what can you do to avoid pothole accidents? Read this blog to find out!

Potholes: what causes them and how do you claim for pothole damage?

All you need to know about pothole accidents and damages

Let's face it – potholes are a true menace on the road. Recent figures show that, in 2023 alone, potholing accidents and damages cost drivers across the UK a staggering £474m, with more than 630,000 incidents being reported all over the country.

But what exactly is a pothole, and how does it form? Check out this blog to learn how you can keep your car safe en route.

What causes potholes?

In short, potholes are dips or divots on the road that can pose threats to a smooth trip. As well as causing bumpy rides, potholes can inflict severe damage to your motor, leading to episodes such as tyre punctures and suspension problems.

Believe it or not, the UK is thought to have more than one million potholes nationwide. Crazy, right? So, no matter where you live, you're likely to be exposed to potholing accidents or damages at some point.

But how are potholes made, and why are there so many? Bad weather, traffic, and – often – poor road maintenance are to blame.

Most potholes begin to form as water seeps into small cracks in the asphalt, which have, in turn, been caused over time by the wear and tear of traffic.

During spells of cold weather, the water begins to freeze and expands and eventually melts when the days turn warmer. However, as the water evaporates, it creates gaps on the road that get broken down even further by vehicles on the street.

So, with an average of 171.5 days of rain per year and millions of motors on its roads, it's no wonder the UK is dotted with potholes all over the country.

How to prevent pothole accidents and damage

Potholes shouldn’t be underestimated, as they can cause serious damage to your vehicle.

In the case of low cars, for example, they might even scrape the undercarriage or affect the exhaust system, which can lead to all sorts of safety hazards.

What can you do to stay safe? Here are a few simple tips:

1. Keep your tyres in good condition 🚗

One way to prevent pothole damage is by keeping an eye on the condition of your tyres. More specifically, they need to have the correct pressure, as properly inflated tyres will be able to withstand any potential impact with more confidence and protection. Make sure to look out for wear or bulges in the sidewall, too, as this might impact how well your tyres tackle potholes en route.

2. Keep a firm grip on the wheel 

Driving into potholes can cause your car to change direction suddenly, putting you and fellow road users at risk of accidents. Likewise, making contact with potholes at an angle can lead to further damage, so – if you can't avoid it safely – it's always better to hit the road defect head-on.

3. Stay vigilant on the road 👀

Being alert when you drive is a must at all times, and even more so when cruising along an uneven road. Adhere to the speed limit and drive carefully in bad weather conditions, as potholes might be obscured by puddles and more difficult to spot.

How to claim for pothole damage

What to do in the unfortunate event your car has suffered pothole damage? If your vehicle has been damaged by a road that's not in tip-top condition, you might be able to claim compensation.

To do this, the government website advises getting in contact with the company responsible for the specific stretch of road.

You would need to inform them about the type of damage, why you think they're at fault, the date and time of the incident, and the exact location where the damage occurred. This might include the name of the road or street and any feature or marker post number that identifies that particular spot.

Alternatively, you can get in touch with your car insurer and file a claim for pothole damage. You are likely to need to provide them with evidence of the damage, so make sure you have all the photos and details at hand.


Information includes references to:

FleetNews - Pothole damage to vehicles at record high

RAC - RAC pothole index – statistics and data for UK roads

Statista - Annual number of rain days in the United Kingdom (UK) from 1965 to 2023

Advice | 19.03.24

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