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Potholes pose severe risk to life, safety experts warn

Motorists have been warned that the risk to life because of potholes is now severe, as road conditions worsen.

Road safety experts at UK-based Road Angel are urging councils to fork out and repair potholes or they say road users will lose their lives.

Local authorities in the UK paid out over £32 million in compensation for 5,596 personal injury claims due to potholes between 2017 and 2021, according to a freedom of information request by Road Angel.

Pothole-related breakdowns there hit a five-year high in July this year, with 50,079 callouts to vehicles stranded with faults caused by potholes, an increase of nearly one-fifth from 41,790 in July 2022.

With fewer potholes being repaired in the last financial year than any other in the past decade, Road Angel claims there is concern that thousands more will be injured, and killed, as a direct result of badly kept roads.

A wet summer – both here in Ireland and in the UK – has meant that roads are in a worse condition than expected as water causes greater damage and repairs are harder to carry out.

If left, potholes grow in size as traffic wears away the edges leaving greater numbers of larger holes that will cause serious damage if driven through.

Motoring organisations are reporting that these larger potholes fill up with water in the wet so are harder for motorists to spot.

Drivers run the risk of losing control of their car when they drive over potholes, especially if they don’t spot them and are moving at speed.

Potholes can cause extensive damage to a car’s tyres which can affect steering alignment, and can also cause wheels to burst, pop or deflate while driving which could send the vehicle out of control.

They can also cause suspension to become misaligned leading to tyres being at the wrong angle which can also lead to a loss of control.

There have been 124 road deaths in Ireland so far this year, 24 more than this time last year.

Gary Digva, founder of Road Angel, said: “Potholes are incredibly dangerous for motorists as they can cause them to lose control, especially if they cause damage to the tyres of suspension, or swerve out of the way to prevent damage.

“Potholes not only pose a threat to motorists, but they are also dangerous for cyclists because the uneven surfaces can cause the bike to lose control, leading to accidents and serious injuries.

“Pedestrians could also get caught in the crossfire of out-of-control vehicles, putting them at serious risk of harm if walking along a busy road.

“To make matters worse, we have had an unusually wet summer this year which makes potholes harder for road users to see, meaning more people are at risk of hitting potholes and losing control.”

He added: “The best advice to motorists while the roads are in this substandard condition is to drive with caution at all times and reduce speeds when approaching a pothole.

“Motorists concerned for their safety after hitting a pothole should ensure they go to a qualified mechanic to check the vehicle for any damage.”