• 2024-04-09 13:28:22
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How Does a Pothole Form? And Other Pothole FAQS


Potholes are the bane of many drivers’ existence, causing frustration, vehicle damage, and sometimes even accidents. It’s no wonder that drivers may have questions about them, such as how they form, how potholes can be prevented, and how we can make a claim when our vehicle is damaged by a pothole.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about potholes, helping you to understand them and keep yourself and your car protected.

How do potholes form?

Potholes are formed when water seeps into cracks in the road surface. These cracks will expand over time due to water and also due to wear and tear caused by traffic. As the road gets weaker, parts of the road will be broken down or displaced, leaving potholes.

The process of potholes forming can be worse in cold weather when the water freezes and expands within the cracks of the road. When the ice then thaws, gaps are left, which weakens the road. This makes it more susceptible to damage from traffic, and leaves larger areas for water to get in, where the whole freeze-thaw process starts again.

How can potholes be prevented?

Potholes can be prevented in a number of ways. Firstly, proper drainage of the roads is required. This prevents standing water on the road and helps to reduce how much water will find its way into cracks in the road surface. This can include storm drains and also maintenance of drainage systems, to ensure they’re not blocked, and water can run through smoothly.

Regular surveyance of roads is also a good preventative measure for potholes. Risks can be identified early, such as standing water and cracking road surfaces. Intervening at this stage by sorting out draining systems and/or improving the road surface by filling cracks can mean larger, more dangerous potholes don’t form.

Often, potholes can reform in the same place where there has been repair undertaken. The material used to repair potholes can make a big difference to potholes forming again. Sometimes, especially in emergency situations for severe potholes, a temporary fix will be put in place. This can reduce the danger to drivers while a more permanent solution can be organised. Sometimes, a full road surface can be a better and more cost-effective option than continually repairing a road for individual potholes.

How to report potholes

Most local councils will have a platform in place for you to report potholes. Mostly this will be done using an online form, but some councils may have an emergency telephone number you can use if a pothole is causing a danger.

You will typically be asked for the location of the pothole, as well as how wide and deep it is. Sometimes councils won’t be able to fix very small potholes, i.e. less than 4cm, but you should still report these so the council can review them at the next inspection.

You can also use the national platform FixMyStreet to report potholes. Here, you can enter the location and information about the pothole, and they will pass it on to the local council for them to deal with. This can be handy if you frequently travel across the country and don’t always have the local council details to hand.

If you want to report a pothole on a motorway or major A-road, you can contact National Highways. They also have an online form you can fill out, or you can call them on 0300 123 5000 to report a non-emergency incident. If there has been an emergency, you should call 999 instead.

How to reduce the risk of damage by potholes

It’s not always possible to avoid potholes, but there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk of damage.

When driving, you should always maintain a good distance between your car and the vehicle in front. This is a safety tip that always applies when driving but can be especially helpful on roads where potholes are prevalent as you’ll have more chance of seeing on the road them as you approach.

You should stay vigilant and keep an eye out on the road for potholes. You should take extra care when it has been raining, as potholes will fill with water, and it will be difficult to judge how deep they are. You should also be aware of your surroundings, including other drivers and pedestrians in case you need to avoid a pothole.

If you are driving on a road that is known to have potholes, maintain a slow and steady speed. Driving into a pothole at higher speeds will result in more damage to the car. You should also avoid braking into a pothole, as this can put more stress on the front suspension by causing the car to tilt. Instead, if you have to drive over a pothole, just let your wheels roll into and out of it freely.

Ensure you have complete control of your vehicle by holding your hands in the correct position on the steering wheel, i.e. “at 10 and 2”. Sometimes your car will swerve if it hits a pothole, so keeping a hold of the steering wheel will make sure you remain on course.

How to claim for pothole damage

If your car has been damaged by a pothole, you should try to make sure you stop in a safe place to survey the damage. If your tyre has blown out, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. If you have lost a hubcap, again, only stop in a safe place and get out to retrieve it if and when it is safe. If your car is safe to drive but you suspect it has been damaged, such as the suspension or wheel alignment, you should take it to a garage as soon as possible to get it checked by a mechanic.

You may be able to claim for damage to your car that has been caused by a pothole. You will need to contact the local council and inform them what the damage was, why you think they’re responsible, the specific location of the pothole/where the damage took place and the time and date it occurred. For damage that happened on motorways and major roads across the UK, you can find a list of contacts on the Government website.

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