RAC patrols blame increase of breakdowns on quality of UK roads

Article date: 7 August 2008

Three quarters of RAC patrols (77%) believe that the quality of Britain's roads has deteriorated, leading to an upturn in vehicle damage and creating concern amongst motorists during an already difficult time, according to a new study released today.

According to the findings, RAC patrols believe a decline in the quality of the nation's roads can be directly attributed to an upturn in breakdowns complaining of damage to tyres (76%), vehicle suspension (56%), underbody (31%) and chipped windscreens (51%). Punctures were reported as the single number one cause of breakdowns for RAC members in 2007, with over 200,000 call outs.

Breakdown Britain is the UK's most authoritative report providing a first hand view from the road as seen by RAC's patrols who are a constant presence on the nation's roads, listening to the real issues facing motorists and our roads.

More than half of patrols (59%) believe that poor quality roads are also having a detrimental effect on the driving experiences of motorists, making it less enjoyable and creating anxiety when embarking on a car journey. This is despite the fact that four out of five patrols (80%) reported that roadworks in their area have increased, suggesting that road improvement programmes are failing to deliver against expectations in terms of road quality. 

Despite £44 billion collected in motoring taxes last year, just £7 billion was spent on improving Britain's roads* - showing that there is a real disconnect with the investment that motorists are making in their vehicles and the response from the government to help them maintain this.

It's not only the added costs associated with damage to vehicles that are affecting Britain's motorists. RAC patrols reported that car owners are feeling the financial pinch due to the rising costs of motoring in other areas. In fact, over half (57%) fed back that fuel costs are the number one concern of RAC members they are called out to and that some people are even finding that they are struggling to maintain their vehicles. Twelve percent of patrols stated that customers are now less able to take their vehicle for an annual service.

Iain Vale, RAC Patrol of the Year, comments: "Motoring seems to have become the third ‘sin tax' and motorists are really getting a raw deal. Not only are drivers feeling the financial pinch, despite recent fuel price cuts, they also have to contend with poor quality roads which can cause costly repairs to their vehicle.

"We're calling for the government to increase the level of investment to improve the standard of roads to reflect the revenue collected in motoring taxation - providing British motorists with the service they both deserve and continue to pay for."

Other key findings from the RAC Breakdown Britain report include:

  • 69% of patrols think a significant number of call outs are caused by motorists mis-interpreting warning lights and assuming the vehicle isn't safe to drive
  • 62% of RAC patrols regularly attend breakdowns where the member is unable to diagnose the problem
  • 48% of patrols have been told by a member that the breakdown is the fault of their kids messing around.

Iain Vale continues: "In the current economic climate motorists could save precious time and money by having a better understanding of their vehicle. By regularly checking the oil, water and tyre pressure when filling up at the petrol station, motorists could reduce the risk of having to make a call out or having more serious problems in the long run."


For a full copy of the Breakdown Britain report please call the RAC press office.

Download RAC Breakdown Britain Report (PDF 1,165KB) (link is no longer active)

RAC Press office contact:
Vicki Burn 01603 684224/ 07800 692909, Melanie Corbett on 0207 908 6445 /Amy Funston on 0207 908 6433/ Louis Blake on 020 7 908 6523

ISDN telephone interviews available.

Notes to editors:

*Source: Freight Transport Association

About Breakdown Britain
An in-depth survey of 626 RAC patrols was carried out between 18 March and 18 April 2008.

Analysis of results were carried out by The Survey Shop between 23 April and 1 May 2008.

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by JD Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the past two years.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 15%.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at www.racnews.co.uk/.

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