For drivers all over the UK, potholes are a scourge that seems to have been getting worse of the past few years. They can occur on any road on which the asphalt surface is old or worn. Over time, water will seek through the cracks, which will freeze when the cold winter weather hits. Water expands as it turns into ice, loosening the surface so that it gradually wears away as cars and lorries drive over it. 

If you can see a pothole or are aware of its existence because of previous experience, you can usually drive around it without too much trouble, provided you are travelling slowly enough. However, whether you are hiring a car or driving your own, significant damage to your vehicle can occur if you hit a pothole at high speed, ranging from dented rims to complete suspension blowouts. 

A recent study looking to measure the scale of the #PotholePandemic in the UK provides some interesting figures for regional differences in for insurance claims as the result of vehicle damage caused by potholes. Of the English county councils that featured in the study, the three which received the most claims for compensation in 2018-2019 were Surrey, Hampshire and Hertfordshire. The three which received the fewest were Richmond-upon-Thames Borough, Islington Borough and Waltham Forest Borough. These findings are not especially surprising. Rural counties are usually much larger than their inner-city counterparts and so have a greater network of roads to upkeep. This, together with limited public funding resources, makes it much harder for them to keep on top of reports of emerging potholes.

My personal pothole experience is probably typical of drivers all over the country. A few years ago, while on holiday in Devon, I accidentally drove my rental car over a massive gaping hole in the surface of the road. It was night and the sea mist made for some extremely poor visibility. I was driving along with my wife and two kids when suddenly there was a sickening jolt. I immediately realised what must have happened, and on getting out to check for damage, I spotted a substantial dent in the rim of the may front left wheel. I was pretty worried about being charged for the damage by the car rental company when it came time to hand the car back, but after a browse of the insurance policy that I had bought from them, my mind was laid to rest. It turns out that I was covered for pothole damage after all. It should not have come as much of a surprise that car rental companies in Devon insist that you buy cover for pothole damage given the state of the county’s roads!

Not only can potholes cause significant damage to vehicles, but one of the most common reasons cited by motorists who suffer the misfortune of being involved in road traffic accidents is taking evasive action to avoid driving into them. Make sure you drive safely to make sure you do not become another statistic.