It’s the season for potholes. I don’t know about your city, but I nearly broke a tooth after hitting a neck jarring pothole last week. The impact left a noticeable pull to the left to my steering. It could be worse; a friend bent the rim on his car after hitting a monster of a hole, leaving him with a flat tire and a costly repair.

Damaged and deteriorated roads are also a real danger. Approximately a third of the 33,000 fatal crashes each year in the U.S. are attributed to poor road conditions, and many bicyclists are injured after hitting a pothole or from traffic as they try to avoid one.

Potholes are a product of the freeze/thaw cycle that destroys asphalt and wears away the underlying materials. Damage to a vehicle varies depending on the size, depth and the speed at which they are hit. It could include:

  • Tire puncture
  • Misalignment of the steering system
  • Damage to wheel rims
  • Engine damage
  • Cracked or broken suspension parts
  • Untimely wear to shocks and struts
  • Holes or crimping of the exhaust system

These can lead to dangerous driving conditions and experts say we should check for:

  • Bulging sidewalls or flat spots on tires
  • Uneven wear on tire tread
  • Strange noises or odors from the exhaust system
  • Cuts, flat spots and cracks on tire rims
  • Dents or punctures that could lead to fluid leaks and rust from the undercarriage

The pothole epidemic is a real financial burden, costing us as much $3 billion a year in repair bills. The average fix from hitting a large pothole can range from $300 to $600 dollars.

And, here’s some more bad news, while damage to your car or truck from a pothole is covered by collision insurance, it only kicks in after you pay the deductible. Also, filing a claim for pothole damage is considered an at-fault collision and could increase your insurance rates at renewal.

Some cities and states have funds to reimburse drivers for damage from potholes, but the process is very restrictive and cumbersome and very few actually receive any compensation.

Since spending to fix deteriorated roads is limited (the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that it will cost trillions of dollars to repair crumbling roadways and bridges across America), here are some tips to lessen the damage caused by potholes:

  • Keep tires properly inflated
  • Keep a reasonable distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you to spot and avoid potholes
  • Slow down during pothole season – often times damage is reduced the slower you hit one

And here’s one final thought; faded traffic lane markings and shoddy asphalt conditions are confusing to autonomous vehicles, slowing testing in many areas of the country.

California Casualty
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