New data shows 2021 was an expensive year for drivers who sustained
vehicle damage from potholes
Spring is just around the corner and many Tennesseans will soon, if they haven’t already, face a familiar obstacle on the roadway — potholes. A new survey from AAA found that last year, 1 in 10 drivers sustained vehicle damage significant enough to warrant a repair after hitting a pothole. With an average price tag of almost $600 per repair, damage caused by potholes cost drivers a staggering $26.5 billion in 2021 alone.
“Winter roads often give way to pothole-laden obstacle courses,” said Megan Cooper, spokeswoman, AAA – The Auto Club Group.
“When a vehicle hits a pothole with any kind of force, the tires, wheels and suspension get the brunt of the impact and repairs can be pricey.”
How Potholes Form
Cracked and crumbling pavement is the perfect environment for potholes to form. Moisture collects in these crevices and as temperatures fluctuate, it 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. These concrete craters can wreak havoc on a vehicle’s tires, alignment, suspension and shocks.
How to Prepare for Pothole Season
In the winter and spring of 2021, AAA responded to 1.8 million tire-related roadside assistance calls. While AAA does not identify if a roadside assistance request is the result of pothole damage, this number represented 11% of the total calls received in the winter and spring last year.
“While potholes are a reality for many drivers, sustaining vehicle damage doesn’t have to be, “continued Cooper. “AAA recommends drivers pay extra attention to their tires and vehicle suspension and be extra vigilant in scanning the road ahead for potholes.”
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. Follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure found on a sticker inside the driver’s door jamb.
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.
Tips for Drivers:
Keep your eyes on the road and scan for potholes. An alert and cautious driver is less likely to hit a pothole.
Standing water or puddles may disguise a deep pothole. Avoid driving through standing water when possible. If you can’t, drive through slowly and act as though there may be potholes hiding beneath the water.
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 trusted repair facility for a full vehicle inspection as soon as possible.
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.
Tennessee Roadway Tools
Motorists can alert the Tennessee Department of Transportation to potholes using this form: https://www.tn.gov/tdot/maintenance/maintenance-request.html
Get the latest construction activity by live streaming SmartWay traffic cameras at www.TNSmartWay.com/Traffic.
Visit the TDOT Newsroom for all weekly roadway maintenance and construction activities across the state broken down by region: https://www.tn.gov/tdot/news.html