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Damage from potholes costs drivers $26.5 billion in repairs in 2021

Pothole Patrol: Crews working to fill potholes in Hampton Roads
Posted at 2:33 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 14:33:49-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - As Spring approaches so does pothole season.

A new survey from AAA found that in 2021, 1 in 10 drivers had vehicle damage significant enough to warrant a repair after hitting a pothole.

According to AAA, it costs an average of nearly $600 per repair. Damage caused by potholes cost drivers a staggering $26.5 billion in 2021.

AAA is urging government officials and departments of transportation to focus on improving road conditions with the funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“The biggest thing drivers can do preventatively to avoid pothole damage is to check their tire pressure,” said Kyle Loftus, AAA Car Care Center general manager. “We usually see an uptick in pothole related repairs after we have had winter weather so around this time of year is when we see the most pothole damage done to vehicles.”

Potholes are created from cracked and crumbling pavement that collects moisture. As temperatures fluctuate, the road expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in a pothole.

Potholes can damage a vehicle’s tires, alignment, suspension and shocks.

In the winter and spring of 2021, AAA responded to 1.8 million tire-related roadside assistance calls nationally. AAA does not identify if a roadside assistance request was the result of pothole damage, however, this number represented 11% of the total calls received in the winter and spring last year.

AAA recommends the following:

  • Check Your Tires, which includes tread depth, tire pressure, suspension and alignment
  • Keep Your Eyes on the Road. An alert and cautious driver is less likely to hit a pothole
  • Tread depth—insert a quarter into the tread groove with Washington’s head upside down. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires.
  • Tire pressure—check this at least once a month using a quality gauge. Do so before driving when tires have been at rest and are not hot. Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure found on a sticker inside the driver’s side door.
  • Suspension and Alignment—look for changes in vehicle handling, excessive vibration or uneven wearing of tires, all indications of a problem with the suspension like alignment or shocks. If your vehicle pulls to the left or right, have the wheel alignment checked by a trusted mechanic.
  • Scan the road ahead for potholes and if it’s safe to do so, drive around any in your path.
  • Standing water or puddles may disguise a deep pothole. Avoid driving through standing water when possible but if you can’t, drive through slowly and treat them as though there may be potholes hiding beneath the water.
  • There may be times when you cannot avoid hitting a pothole. In that case, safely reduce your speed as much as possible and avoid braking abruptly, particularly as you go over the pothole as this compresses your suspension and adds extra force to the tire. Striking a pothole at higher speeds increases the chance of severe damage including knocking the wheels out of alignment, affecting the steering, and bending or even breaking suspension components.
  • If you hit a pothole, pay attention to any new or unusual noises or vibrations. If you detect something is off with your vehicle, take it to a AAA Car Care Center [ace.aaa.com] for a full vehicle inspection as soon as possible.