MORE than 40% of motorists in Scotland have had their vehicles damaged by potholes over the past two years, according to new figures.

The country topped a UK league table for pothole damage, compiled by the AA, which found the results were considerably worse than in any other part of the country.

The motoring organisation branded the state of the roads a national embarrassment as it revealed the number of pothole-related insurance claims in the UK more than doubled last month, compared with January last year. The figures emerged in a survey of more than 22,000 AA members around the UK, of whom 1957 were in Scotland.

It found 44% of drivers in Scotland said damaged road surfaces caused them problems within the past two years.

Scotland was followed by the north-west and north-east of England, where about 35% of motorists said they had experienced pothole trouble.

Wales came joint seventh, on 31%, while Northern Ireland was at the bottom of the table, with 29% reporting pothole damage in the period.

The recent rain and cold have been partly blamed for the results.

Potholes form as water freezes and expands in cracks in the road surface. Passing traffic opens up the damaged surface and rain washes out loose material, deepening potholes further.

The results show tyres and wheels bear the brunt of the impact, with 16% of respondents in Scotland reporting a damaged tyre and 8% sustaining damage to both tyre and wheel.

Thirteen per cent had their tracking knocked out of alignment and suffered damage to the wheel and tyre.

Five people said the incident resulted in them losing control and crashing into anther vehicle or object.

AA patrol Andy Smith offered motorists advice on how to drive on damaged road surfaces. He said: "It's no surprise drivers in Scotland have taken the biggest pothole hit.

"AA patrols report that as soon as you get off the main road in many rural areas it's like being on an Alpine mountain pass – you're often in first gear traversing huge craters.

"If you see one up ahead, slow down and try to avoid swerving round it as you risk having a more serious accident.

"Regularly check your tyre pressures and look for any bulges, nicks or unusual tyre wear, which could spell pothole trouble.

"If in any doubt, get them checked at a garage or tyre specialist."

AA president Edmund King said: "These survey results showing more pothole damage in Scotland and the north broadly reflects what our AA streetwatch volunteers found in their last pothole count.

"The fact that close to half of our members in Scotland have had their car damaged by potholes is a damning indictment of the state of our roads.

"They're a national embarrassment.

"More broadly it doesn't reflect well on the standing of our nation in the eyes of tourists and indeed foreign investors.

"A decent road infrastructure must be a minimum requirement for a progressive 21st- century country."

The AA/Populus survey was conducted online between January 21 and 25.