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Potholes vs Speed bumps: Which are worse for your car?

5 minutes

Hitting the hump of a speed bump can cause similar damage to a vehicle as the dip of a pothole and most drivers will have their own thoughts on which is more frustrating. But which is worse for your car? 

Potholes

A 2018 survey conducted by WhoCanFixMyCar.com discovered that one in three motorists reported damage to their car from potholes, resulting in £1.7 billion worth of damage annually. It also found that more than 10.5 million drivers have to get their vehicles repaired because of poorly maintained roads.

At LV=, we had more than 1,300 claims between January 2014 and April 2019 due to pothole damage.

Though they may be annoying for drivers, the impact of potholes can be far more severe. Department for Transport data revealed that at least 390 cyclists “were killed or seriously hurt between 2007 and 2016 because of potholes”.

But what is being done? According to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, one pothole was filled every 17 seconds in England and Wales last year, costing some £97.8 million.

This eye-watering figure isn’t even close to what local councils need to repair all potholes across the UK, with an extra £657 million needed to maintain road conditions.

What damage do potholes do to our cars?

Travelling over potholes too quickly can cause damage to your vehicle if you’re travelling too fast or not giving yourself enough time to react safely. 

Properly inflated tyres should be able to withstand road conditions if you’re doing the speed limit but can cause wear and tear such as sidewall bulges and tread separation.

It’s not only your tyres that could be in trouble. If a wheel rim meets the road, this could affect both wheel and tyre. Suspension and exhausts can also be damaged as they are naturally close to the road surface. 

If you notice something feels different with your car, especially after hitting a pothole, you should make sure you get it checked over as soon as possible. 

Motorists experience damage to their vehicles from both potholes and speed bumps. But which are worse?

Speed bumps

Traffic calming methods such as speed bumps are more likely to be used in residential and urban areas. Many of the 29,000 speed bumps in the UK are well sign posted and are often brandished with yellow paint.

Despite this, however, research from Confused.com shows that more than one in five drivers say speed bumps have damaged their car.

A Freedom of Information request also shows that local authorities paid more than £35,000 between 2015 and 2017 to compensate motorists for damage caused by speed bumps.

The number is high when you consider that Highways Regulations don’t see speed bumps as road defects, as they’re safety measures. However, if a bump is over the maximum legal height of 10 centimetres then a case can be made.

What damage do speed bumps do to our cars?

As with potholes, if you go over a speed bump too fast then you can potentially cause damage to your vehicle.

The main damage to vehicles caused by a speed bump is either suspension or tyre issues, which can result in costly repairs.

Statistics from The Week show that a third of repairs were suspension-related and almost half involved tyres.

Modified vehicles that sit low to the ground could also experience damage to the bottom of the car. Again, as with potholes, this could affect an exhaust so taking care to drive at an appropriate speed is essential. 

Which are worse for your car?

Nationally one in five drivers report damage from speed bumps but one in three report damage from potholes. At face value, therefore, it appears clear that potholes are more problematic for Britain’s vehicles than speed bumps. However, depending on where you live one may be a much more common sight than the other. 

Potholes are found on all roads - in random and unplanned places - meaning you may not get the warning signs or notice you need to slow down before you hit it. 

As speed bumps are generally used in areas where there are a lot of people, you’re more likely to get fair warning and reminders to slow down your speed.

Potholes will naturally cause more annoyance and frustration for drivers. Even the most anti-speed bump driver will understand that they are there to make roads safer, while potholes are degradation of the UK’s roads.

Both are problematic, but it’s important to note that if you take care and drive to the legal speed limit, road conditions shouldn’t cause damage your vehicle.

If you want to report problematic road conditions, contact Highways England to get the issue resolved.

To ensure your vehicle is covered at all times, speak to LV= about your car insurance policy to give you total peace of mind.