The RAC says there may have been an improvement in the state of the country’s roads over the past year after its roadside patrols were called out to fewer pothole-related breakdowns in the first quarter.

In total, the breakdown recovery organisation says it dealt with 3,276 call-outs for damaged suspension and distorted wheels during the first three months of the year. In comparison, the organisation was called out to 5,540 similar incidents during the same period in 2018.

The figure was also much lower than usually seen in the first quarter, leading the RAC to express the belief that the news could signal an improvement in the nation’s road surfaces. A statement from the organisation said the improvement could be attributed to the relatively mild winter and the government’s decision to increase spending on potholes.

“Our data gathered from our patrols’ work at the roadside encouragingly shows there has been a slight improvement in the quality of road surfaces around the country as fewer vehicles have been stricken by broken shock absorbers, suspension springs and distorted wheels,” said RAC breakdown spokesperson Simon Williams. “This will almost certainly be in part due to the mild winter weather that has helped to prevent road surfaces that were already damaged breaking down further.”

The news follows a study by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which showed that despite a second consecutive year of increases in local authorities’ highway maintenance budgets, the one-time bill for fixing all the UK’s potholes had risen by around £500 million. However, the report also revealed a small improvement in the state of the roads, with the proportion of roads deemed to be in “poor condition” falling from 12 percent in 2017/18 to 10 percent in 2018/19. The number of roads in need of attention also fell slightly, from 24,000 in 2017/18 to 22,600 in 2018/19.

“Our findings seem to correlate with data from the AIA survey,” said Williams. “But while more local authority highway maintenance funding seems to be making a positive difference, there is still a long way to go before their roads are brought back to a truly fit-for-purpose state.

“We believe it would be better if more of the tax paid by drivers went towards the repair and maintenance of local roads. The AIA estimates the one-off cost of bringing roads in England and Wales back to a fit-for-purpose state to be £9.79bn. A sum of this scale could easily be generated over a period of 10 years by ring-fencing a small proportion of existing fuel duty revenue charged on every litre of petrol and diesel sold which brings in around £27bn for the government annually.”