Winter 2019/2020 is almost here, and many of us will be wondering what kind of winter we are going to get. Will it be mild, wet and windy or are we going to have another cold season with lots of snow and ice? If the latter, we can be sure it will play havoc with the condition of UK roads and worsen the USUAL problem of potholes. Local councils are struggling to fix the roads with pressure on budgets from all angles.
According to a report from Confused.com, in 2017/18 more than 905,000 potholes were reported on UK roads, and local authorities had to pay out nearly £3 million to compensate drivers who had suffered pothole damage. The same report stated that almost 28% of drivers have had an accident or near-miss because of a pothole.
What kind of damage can potholes cause?
Potholes are bad news for vehicles. They can cause damage to shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and buckled wheels. Cars will also try to avoid potholes and may change direction quickly and this can cause accidents.
Pressure on road services in recent years has left councils and local authorities struggling to keep up with necessary road repairs. Back in 2010 and 2011, the UK experienced two very cold winters with significant snowfall and icy roads. More recently, further bad winter weather in the form of 2018’s ‘Beast from the East’ has also contributed to the problem.
How do potholes form in the first place?
The main cause of potholes is ice forming on the road and ‘digging’ down through the top layer into the aggregate underneath. The ice then melts into water and destabilises the under surface of the road, causing it to break up. The more traffic passes over it, the more the ice breaks up and creates the pothole.
Carrying out proper repairs usually involves completely resurfacing the road so that the pothole gets properly filled and the tarmac on top is completely replaced. Unfortunately this does not always happen because it is expensive and causes problems with highway closures for the road using public.
Some councils and local authorities carry out interim repairs by simply filling the pothole with tarmac. While this will temporarily alleviate the problem, the more traffic travels over it, the quicker it will start to break up again. Further icy winter weather means the frost will simply ‘burrow’ further down below the surface and destabilise the plug of tarmac.
As we all know, potholes can become very big, wide and deep and are not always easy to spot on the road ahead. Oncoming traffic also means that it is not always possible to safely avoid them. While regular use of certain roads will make drivers familiar with where potholes are, on roads we don’t know they can come up on us all of a sudden and cause significant damage to our vehicles or at worst, an accident.
The current state of the UK’s roads is not always what would be expected from one of the world’s most developed countries. We can only hope there will be greater commitment to road repair over the next few years so that we can get our roads into a better and more acceptable state.
We can also hope that winter 2019/2020 does not give us too much snow and ice, minimising further damage to our road surfaces and in turn, fewer potholes