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RAC Pothole Index

Blog post   •   Jul 01, 2019 09:00 BST

What is the Pothole Index?

The RAC uses its database of breakdowns attended each year to update the RAC Pothole Index, an ongoing monitor of the state of the UK’s roads. The index is essentially a measure of how often the average RAC member requests roadside assistance for a breakdown where the fault was of a type where damage from a pothole or other road surface defect was the most likely cause i.e. damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and wishbones and distorted wheels. This ‘call-out rate’ is aggregated over the previous 12 months to remove seasonal effects.

The index uses the call-out rate at the start of 2006 as a benchmark and the value of the index is therefore a measure of how likely a motorist’s vehicle is to suffer pothole damage compared to 2006. Thus an index of 1.2 would mean the likelihood of pothole damage had increased by 20%. 

The index shows there was a steady deterioration in the condition of roads between 2005 and 2010 as highways authorities’ budgets were tightened and many cut back on preventative maintenance. After 2010 it suggests there was some overall improvement in road quality, but progress is heavily influenced by extreme weather and the availability of emergency funding from central government. However, since the beginning of 2017 the index indicates the condition of roads across the UK has deteriorated steadily.