Northumberland drivers count the cost on National Pothole Day

A pothole in Northumberland.
A pothole in Northumberland.
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Drivers are being warned to beware on rural roads as an insurer counts the cost on National Pothole Day.

NFU Mutual, the UK’s largest rural insurer, is urging motorists to take extra care on country roads after it revealed that the number of claims it received for pothole-related damage rose by 63 per cent between 2012 and 2013.

“People who live and work in rural areas already face huge problems with poorly maintained roads, a higher risk of accidents and a lack of gritting during the winter months,” said Nicki Whittaker, a rural affairs specialist at NFU Mutual.

Today is National Pothole Day, organised by Street Repairs to encourage motorists to report potholes.

While the rise in claims is concerning, NFU Mutual is worried that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many motorists might seek recompense directly from the local authority, while other motorists might weather the costs themselves rather than claim on their car insurance.

“The situation is particularly worrying at the moment,” Nicki said. “Forecasted heavy rain means that many deep potholes may be filled with water and, therefore, pose a real hazard for the unsuspecting motorist. The problem on rural roads could also be exacerbated if the water currently lying on road surfaces starts to freeze and causes further damage.”

While the majority of claims for pothole damage involve vehicle tyres and wheels, NFU Mutual has seen a worrying rise in the number and cost of accidents where drivers have either hit a pothole and lost control of their vehicle or collided with another vehicle after swerving to avoid a pothole in the road.

According to NFU Mutual’s claims data, the three worst areas of the country for pothole related accidents are the South West, the North East and the Midlands respectively.

“Potholes are costing local farmers and rural businesses a packet,” she said. “There is a double impact on a business, not only might they have to replace an expensive piece of equipment but there can also be up to a fortnight’s downtime waiting for parts, which adds even more misery to their situation.

“Other rural road users such as cyclists and horse riders are also at risk as they may need to take sudden avoiding action when they encounter a pothole or may ride, unsuspecting, into deep potholes which are filled with rainwater.”

The Gazette has reported that around 700 potholes a week are being repaired in Northumberland as the county council continues work to improve the road network.