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Daily Mail corrects story about electric vehicles causing potholes

Press standards body tells newspaper to publish amendment to misleading report

Mark Moran
29 April 2024
Potholes (Mark Moran)
AIA Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey Report 2024
AIA Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey Report 2024

 

The Daily Mail has been forced to correct an inaccurate and misleading article that falsely claimed a report on the condition of Britain’s roads said potholes were mainly caused by electric vehicles.

The inaccurate reporting was challenged by Pallavi Sethi, a fellow at the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment.

She was among a number of people who complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (LSE) about the newspaper’s misrepresentation of a report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance and why such reporting continues to damage the British public’s understanding of climate change policies.

The article, originally titled Heavier electric cars blamed for the £16bn cost of pothole plague, was published on page 2 of the Daily Mail’s print edition and on its website on 19 March.

It was written by the newspaper’s chief political correspondent, David Churchill, as part of the Daily Mail’s ongoing campaign which has been critical of electric vehicles and other technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

The article misrepresented the report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) by suggesting it singled out electric vehicles as being responsible for the current pothole ‘crisis’ in Britain.

The opening paragraphs of the Mail article stated: “Heavier electric vehicles and larger cars are helping push Britain’s crumbling roads to ‘breaking point’.

“The pothole backlog repair bill now stands at a record £16 billion, as compensation claims soar.

“The warning comes in a report which highlights how changing driving habits are putting increased pressure on local roads across England and Wales.”

Further on, the article stated: “The bill for payouts has soared by nearly a third, from £11.6 million to £15.2 million, according to the report by trade body the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA). It said the growing crisis was being fuelled by ‘increased average vehicle weights on a deteriorating network’.

“This includes more than 1 million electric vehicles (EVs) – three times the number in 2019 – now on the roads. EVs cause twice as much stress on tarmac because they greatly outweigh their petrol or diesel equivalents.”

However, the AIA’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey Report 2024 makes no such claims. In fact, it does not discuss or refer to electric vehicles in any way. Instead, the report points out: “A sizeable number of respondents [who came from local authority highway departments in England and Wales] have reported having to cope with unforeseen highway maintenance costs over the year. The reasons identified for this include dealing with the effects of extreme weather events, rising traffic volumes and increased average vehicle weights on a deteriorating network, as well as the impact of inflation which has had a noticeable impact on costs.”

Many people, including Private Eye, called out the newspaper for making up another bogus story about electric vehicles, said Pallavi Sethi, who is a policy fellow specialising in climate change misinformation.

She said: “After I and others had submitted complaints to both the Daily Mail and the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the newspaper on 19 April published a small correction on page 2 of its print edition, stating:

'An article on March 19 said that a report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance had blamed electric cars for the rise in potholes. In fact, while the report did refer to the impact of heavier vehicles, it did not specify electric cars.'

The newspaper has since edited the website version of the article, removing any reference to electric vehicles in the headline or body text.

Before joining Grantham Research Institute, Pallavi was a project manager at Logically Facts and led a third-party fact-checking partnership with Meta to mitigate harmful online mis-and disinformation. She also authored comprehensive reports and articles on the misinformation surrounding the UK’s climate policies.

Pallavi Sethi said: “Since 2023, the Daily Mail has published numerous misleading ‘news’ articles and opinion pieces aimed at undermining government policies, particularly the phase-out of petrol and diesel cars, to achieve net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.

“Earlier this year, Richard Bruce, director of transport decarbonisation at the Department for Transport, testifying before the House of Lords Climate Change Committee, acknowledged a ‘campaign of misinformation’ against EVs. ‘There is an anti-EV story in the papers almost every day’, he said.

“Such false reporting is damaging, and the Daily Mail is one of the biggest culprits. According to a study conducted in 2022 by Climate Action Against Disinformation (CAAD), in the UK, frequent readers of the Daily Mail were found to have the strongest belief in prominent climate change misinformation narratives.”

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