Exclusive: number of breakdowns reaches five-year high

Highways England records 224,225 breakdowns in 2018/19 financial year - up a fifth in two years; rise comes as average age of cars increases

Breakdowns

The number of vehicles breaking down on England’s motorway and major-road network reached a five-year high in the previous financial year, with Highways England recording 224,225 breakdowns in 2018/19, up from 189,256 in 2014/15. 

Breakdowns were up a fifth in the last two years and increased 14.8 per cent in 2018/19 compared to 2017/18, figures released to Auto Express following a freedom of information request show.

Best breakdown cover

The surge in recorded breakdowns comes as the average age of cars in the UK has increased from 7.8 years in 2015 to 8.2 in 2018, and is up from 6.8 years in 2003. Traffic volumes have remained broadly stable over recent years, increasing just 0.2 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017, indicating the breakdown increases are due to ageing vehicles, rather than larger volumes of traffic.

 

 

 

Year

 

 

Number of breakdowns

 

 

2014/15

 

 

189,256

 

 

2015/16

 

 

187,913

 

 

2016/17

 

 

186,319

 

 

2017/18

 

 

195,292

 

 

2018/19

 

 

224,225

 

 

Highways England is responsible for 4,300 miles of the country’s motorways and strategic main roads. While the organisation’s network makes up just 2 per cent of England’s roads, these roads carry a third of the country’s traffic. 

Friday remains the busiest day of the week for breakdowns, with 16 per cent of breakdowns recorded on Fridays in 2018/19. Sundays, unsurprisingly, see the fewest breakdowns, at 13.46% in the last FY. This trend has remained stable over the last five years.

Last year’s summer getaway saw July and August become the busiest months for breakdowns, with 21,759 and 21,000 recorded respectively in those months in 2018/19. That bucks the previous year’s trend, when more cars broke down in March on Highways England’s roads than in any other month.

The motorways with the biggest number of breakdowns are, unsurprisingly, the busiest roads by traffic volume, with the M1 witnessing 14.3 per cent of all breakdowns in the last financial year. Highways England’s 15 busiest roads were witness to 81 per cent of all recorded breakdowns last year.

 

 

 

Highway Name

 

 

FY 14-15

 

 

FY 15-16

 

 

FY 16-17

 

 

FY 17-18

 

 

FY 18-19

 

 

Grand Total

 

 

M1

 

 

26,648

 

 

25,738

 

 

26,476

 

 

28,380

 

 

32,152

 

 

139,394

 

 

M25

 

 

23,823

 

 

24,369

 

 

24,130

 

 

24,818

 

 

27,941

 

 

125,081

 

 

M6

 

 

23,510

 

 

23,374

 

 

23,895

 

 

24,645

 

 

29,428

 

 

124,852

 

 

M5

 

 

14,893

 

 

13,312

 

 

13,591

 

 

14,187

 

 

15,420

 

 

71,403

 

 

M62

 

 

11,501

 

 

11,020

 

 

10,761

 

 

11,686

 

 

13,332

 

 

58,300

 

 

M4

 

 

10,640

 

 

10,496

 

 

10,050

 

 

10,862

 

 

12,462

 

 

54,510

 

 

M40

 

 

7,225

 

 

7,326

 

 

7,140

 

 

7,687

 

 

9,692

 

 

39,070

 

 

A1M

 

 

6,489

 

 

6,534

 

 

6,508

 

 

7,310

 

 

8,545

 

 

35,386

 

 

M60

 

 

5,448

 

 

5,920

 

 

6,109

 

 

6,302

 

 

6,379

 

 

30,158

 

 

M3

 

 

5,053

 

 

6,151

 

 

5,073

 

 

5,744

 

 

7,033

 

 

29,054

 

 

M42

 

 

4,698

 

 

4,427

 

 

4,160

 

 

4,441

 

 

4,457

 

 

22,183

 

 

M11

 

 

3,700

 

 

3,861

 

 

3,737

 

 

3,707

 

 

4,268

 

 

19,273

 

 

A1

 

 

3,630

 

 

4,134

 

 

4,025

 

 

3,755

 

 

3,187

 

 

18,731

 

 

M20

 

 

3,282

 

 

3,091

 

 

3,016

 

 

2,982

 

 

4,244

 

 

16,615

 

 

M56

 

 

2,805

 

 

2,755

 

 

2,670

 

 

2,749

 

 

3,421

 

 

14,400

 

 

Grand Total

 

 

153,345

 

 

152,508

 

 

151,341

 

 

159,255

 

 

181,961

 

 

798,410

 

 

Highways England highlighted that the breakdown figures relate only to incidents the organisation was involved in or had awareness of. The agency also said that “almost half of all breakdowns are caused by simple mechanical problems which could be avoided with simple checks and nearly a quarter are caused by tyre problems.” Highways England advises drivers to check their tyres, screenwash and oil levels before setting out on long or significant journeys, and also ensuring all lights are working as they should. The agency also stressed the importance of drivers ensuring they have enough fuel in their vehicles to complete their journeys

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at the AA, commented: “Breaking down on a motorway can be a frightening experience, so spending a few minutes before you set off checking your car over could make all the difference.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Simon Williams added: “Breaking down on a motorway or major A road is really the last place a driver wants to find themselves, so these figures serve to highlight the importance of carrying out checks before setting off.

"A lot of breakdowns are entirely avoidable if drivers check oil and coolant are at the right levels, and ensure all tyres are inflated properly and have sufficient tread.”

“With more stretches of all lane running motorways, drivers will want to avoid the prospect of stopping in a live lane. We also need people to recognise the seriousness of the red ‘X’, as it is there to protect vulnerable road users and workers.”

Have you noticed a rise in breakdowns recently? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...

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