Councils have been ordered to step up road repairs during lockdown as new figures show a sharp increase in the number of breakdowns linked to pothole damage.
The Department for Transport has told local authorities to carry on with planned maintenance and take advantage of quieter roads to clear a backlog of repairs.
The instruction comes as new figures from the RAC show the number of pothole-related breakdowns has jumped by two thirds this year.
Data from its recovery service shows that its patrols helped 3,426 motorists who had fallen victim to pothole damage in the first three months of 2020 - 64 per cent more than in the final three months of 2019 and five per cent more than the first quarter of last year.
The motoring organisation said despite a mild winter the “catastrophic” effect of storms Ciara and Dennis earlier this year was likely to have damaged the UK’s roads in recent months.
In the first quarter of 2020 breakdowns resulting from damaged shock absorbers, broken springs and distorted wheels made up 1.6 per cent of all the RAC’s call-outs. This was considerably up on Q4 2019 when the figure stood at 0.9 per cent and marginally up on the same period a year ago – 1.5 per cent.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “Many parts of the country suffered very wet weather conditions throughout February, though the winter overall was generally mild. While the wet conditions mercifully gave way to much drier weather as we headed into March, it’s still likely that the storms and floods were major factors in why the number of pothole-related breakdowns was higher than the same period last year.
“In his Budget in March, the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure – which of course needs to include good quality roads.
“Moreover, it will also be interesting to see if lower traffic volumes during the UK’s lockdown will help prevent further deterioration of roads as fewer wheels going over weaknesses in the asphalt should contribute to less surface wear.”
The RAC’s Pothole Index suggests the overall standard of the roads has improved a little in the last 12 months - down to 1.6 from 2.3 - but drivers are still 1.6 times more likely to break down as a result of pothole-related damage than they were in 2006 when the RAC first started collecting data.