Who pays price of potholes?
I PROBABLY wasn't going any faster than 30mph when I saw a large pothole up ahead.
Unfortunately, it was too late to dodge it and I hit it with an almighty jolt.
My car swerved sharply, but thankfully, I brought it safely to a stop. I immediately realised that one of my front wheels was buckled and the tyre completely deflated. I jacked the car up and changed the wheel in near pitch blackness then walked back up the road to inspect the pothole.
It was huge. There was one other hubcap by the side of the road in Clydach so clearly I wasn't the only one to have hit it. I just about made it home.
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The next day, I ordered a new wheel and tyre at a cost of £160. A big and unexpected bill I could have done without.
So yes, if there's one thing designed to make a motorist's heart sink and blood pressure rise, it's the sound of protest a car makes on encountering a massive pothole. Naturally, this is then accompanied by a similar noise from the individual behind the wheel.
We all try to avoid potholes. But as our roads become more congested, dodging gaping chasms in some of Swansea's roads is something we are increasingly having to get used to.
But it also costing us as council taxpayers' money. For figures out yesterday from the consumer organisation Which? show motorists were paid more than £22 million in compensation for pothole damage to their cars last year. And that figure is set to soar as the cold snap increases the chances of cracking and craters on the nation's highways.
Councils in the North West of England paid out the most in compensation at £8 million, according to figures collated for the consumer magazine by the Asphalt Industry Association. Wales came in at a big £1.4 million.
Potholes develop when cracks in the road fill with water, which expands when it freezes. So the current big chill could spark a new wave of problems.
Mumbles Road in Swansea — one of the busiest in Wales — currently has a series of potholes running along a section of its central carriageway. And right across Swansea's 5,000 roads, there are few areas which have escaped. Motorist Andrew Anderson, 26, from Sketty in Swansea, says he believes a recurring suspension problem on his car is down to potholed roads.
"I reported a particular hole on my way in to work and it was repaired pretty quickly," he says. "But I got caught by it twice and on the second occasion the car took a pretty bad hit. It's annoying. But what can you do about it?"
In November highway bosses at the Local Government Association (LGA) representing 370 councils across Wales and England warned that motorists face a pothole 'catastrophe' stretching for thousands of miles as Britain's crumbling roads reach crisis point. It said budget cutbacks and the threat of another severe winter might mean many councils struggling to move "beyond simply patching up a deteriorating network" — despite filling in holes at the rate of "one every 16 seconds". Which? says motorists should challenge councils to pay up when their vehicles are damaged as an incentive for them to keep roads in good order — and collect photographic evidence to support their claims.
Its executive director Richard Lloyd adds: "Potholes are a menace for all road users. And with temperatures plummeting this week and the bitter weather conditions set to continue, the backlog of repairs could grow again. But drivers should also help themselves and everyone else on the road by pointing out potholes to the local council.''
The watchdog says the chance of claims being successful depends on whether the local authority was aware of the pothole in the first place and had not repaired it or if it had not followed road maintenance guidelines.
An AA survey shows that nationally on average motorists across Britain are facing average of 6.25 potholes per mile.
AA president Edmund King says that although patching up the roads after last winter's ravages has brought some improvement, their condition is on a knife-edge and drivers are still likely to have to dodge potholes. Swansea paid out £12,114 in pothole claims in the last 12 months.
"Our Patch (Priority Action for Community Highways) initiative was introduced to help target and repair some of the worst sections of road in Swansea,'' adds a spokesman.
"The scheme involves a rolling 36-week programme of works in which dedicated highway maintenance teams spend up to two weeks in each ward in Swansea and target the worst affected sections of road."