...potholing down the road
A recent report in the Manchester Evening News reveals the shocking extent to which potholes are blighting the roads of that region.
Melanie Burden, Head of Personal Injury at Simpson Millar, examines the wider context of problem potholes throughout the UK and discusses the problems facing councils when it comes to repairing them.
I read the news today, Oh boy. 16,000 potholes in Greater Manchester…
Something of an increase on John Lennon’s 4,000 in Blackburn, Lancashire, 1967, but that’s inflation for you. Rampant inflation, in fact. Just let that figure sink in: 16,000 potholes reported in a single year in Greater Manchester alone.
Potholes are the bane of motorists and cyclists alike. They cause damage to vehicles and bikes, injury and even death. In the period between 2014 and 2015, more than 3,400 cyclists were either seriously injured or killed on the UK’s roads, with the CTC, the UK’s cycling charity, suggesting that potholes and the general state of Britain’s roads had played a part in the increase of this figure by a third since the mid-2000s.
At Simpson Millar we are seeing an increasing number of claims from people who’ve sustained cycling injuries as a result of hitting a pothole in the road. We’re talking really nasty injuries in some cases, everything from head wounds and concussions, to torn ligaments and fractured bones.
And it isn’t only cyclists coming a cropper due to the state of the UK’s roads. With 90% of automobile accidents caused by human error, the condition some of the nation’s highways have been allowed to slip into must play into the remaining 10%.
Looking at the figures for the Greater Manchester area alone, is this any wonder?
Oldham led the way with 3,594 reported potholes, while Bolton and Stockport followed closely with 2,624 and 2,315 respectively. In one instance, a cyclist reporting a pothole to the local authority in Chorlton-cum-Hardy received an automated message saying there was no money to tackle it at present.
And therein lies the problem.
Left to fester
Government cuts to spending budgets have left councils across the country struggling to fulfil their responsibilities, leaving everyday housekeeping to be eked out on a shoestring. This has meant that roads in dire need of maintenance or renewal have been left like untended wounds, festering away beneath the weight of an increasingly bloated vehicle population, while undergoing an onslaught of often extreme weather conditions.
When pothole repairs do take place, the reduction in permissible expenditure often means that the wound is dressed with little more than a sticking plaster, as ineffective patching jobs – where tarmac assumes the role of road-based Polyfilla, as opposed to renewing the larger section of affected surface – become more common. These present a false economy, in that once the road has endured a few more months of wear and tear, the wound reopens and the pothole is once again a hazard.
On a larger scale, it has been reported that there is 12,000 miles worth of potholes on Britain’s roads waiting repair, which, to add a little perspective, is half the circumference of the world.
“The state of the roads throughout the UK is a scandal, as witnessed by the amount of injuries we see coming across the desk at Simpson Millar. Pedal cyclists are particularly at risk, with kerbsides being especially hazardous as they don’t affect drivers and therefore fall down the list of priorities, leading to tragedies like that of Martyn Uzzell, who hit a pothole while taking part in a charity ride and was thrown into the path of an oncoming car.”
“In that instance, the pothole was next to a drainage gulley and had been reported to the local authority by the police, a whole month before the accident occurred. Despite an inspection, the council deemed the defect not to be deep enough to warrant an immediate repair.”
“Responsibility for maintaining roads, in 90% of cases, falls to the local authority, yet these same councils are being starved of much needed resources. Cash-strapped and buckling under the weight of evermore pernicious budgetary constraints from Government, road safety is being burned at the bonfire of an overly-zealous political agenda.”
“Proper investment is required to give us good quality roads that are free of potholes and other defects. This is not only essential to keep the infrastructure of the country from crumbling into the dust, but also to ensure that the only thing being cut is the amount of injuries sustained on the roads.”
0808 129 3304