Friday 7 November 2014

Beware of pot holes on the roads this winter

We are now approaching winter and if it is anything like the last two years English roads will be full of pot holes. These have occurred due to frost, ice and snow in 2012/2013 and very heavy rain in 2013/2014.

You need to take extra care from now onwards as when it is wet and dark you can't see these. Roads in some counties and regions appear to be in a worse state than others. From personal experiences the state and condition of numerous roads in Buckinghamshire is very poor. If you own a car or van or hiring these vehicles do make sure you are covered for any "undercarriage" damage that could occur as a result of driving over any of these potholes. Local councils might not pay up for damage caused and you will have to rely on your car insurance or paying for your self.

In September the Tour of Britain cycle race en-route from Bath to Hemel Hempstead used the roads near the Buckinghamshire village of Great Hampden going towards Great Missenden. The state of these narrow roads with pot holes either side is a nightmare for traffic. The cyclists would have been using the centre of the roads, however in normal conditions cyclists and vehicle users cannot.

Back in March this year, driving past the village of Ellesborough very close the Prime Minister's country Residence, Chequers I hit a pot hole about 7.30 in the evening. I just ben avoiding several near Wendover.

The next day the car's warning system told me I had a problem with my nearside rear tyre. I took it to a repair centre and fortunately I did not need a new tyre and the company was able to repair this for under £25. It also took an hour and a half of my time.

I decided to take the issue up with Buckinghamshire County Council as I was so fed up with the bad road maintenance in the county. I went through the long claims process, having to try and find the pothole in question and take photos. BCC wanted to know the width and depth of any disputed potholes as well.

Communication continued for some six months until their legal department wrote to me on the 24th October. They concluded a 2 page letter by saying "The incidend you have informed the Highways Authority of occurred in Ellesborough Road on the above date (2203/2014). Upon a review of the safety inspection and maintenancw records for this road, we can confirm that this type of road is subject to regular inspections of 4 times a year, in accordance with Buckinghamshire County Council's Highways Inspection Policy derived from the Code of Practice for Highways Maintenance Management, published by the Department of Transport. Furthermore, the safety inspection prior to your incident was completed on 22nd January 2014 and revealed no defect in the highway at the location you have identified.

In our opinion, The Council has a reasonable system of safety inspections and maintenance in existence for this type of road and is therefore able to establish a complete defence under Section 58 of the Act. In this respect, we must inform you that the Highway Authority has no liability for the unfortunate damage to your property and will therefore close the file in accordance with BCC Risk and Insurance Procedures"

There was of course two months between BCC's inspection and my incident. Two months when there was considerable water damage to roads and the environment by substantial flooding. Badly maintained road surfaces could therefore have just washed away.  

If the damage is serious, damaged wheel, damage to under carriage etc you of course may well choose to claim on the insurance. If it is your own car, by claiming you could of course loose your no claims bonus for something that was not your fault. If it was a very expensive repair the insurance company might battle it out with the local Council / Authority, however if it is only a small amount then you will probably just end up paying for any repairs out of your own pocket.

If you do find potholes in your local area, take a photo and send it to the local council indicating where it is. The image on the left was taken a couple of months ago, it has been repaired, however it was also repaired approximately fifteen months ago, but not too well hence the hole again this autumn.

Make sure your vehicle is properly insured, there is good choice of companies advertising at the jml Insurance site here for car and van insurance and if you are hiring a car, van, minibus or motorhome make sure you buy a specialist policy and check to see if you are insured for those perils. Find out more here.

It could be a long hard dark winter ahead and although local authorities have done a lot of maintenance since last spring, with restricted budgets, roads are not as good as they should be.