Drivers pay billions to repair pothole damage, says AAA

A study from AAA puts a stinging price on how much damage potholes cause.
A study from AAA puts a stinging price on how much damage potholes cause. –The Boston Globe

Potholes in New England have always been a major headache for motorists. But now, you can put a price on how bad a problem they are.

According to a new study from AAA, pothole damage has cost U.S. drivers $15 billion in vehicle repairs over the last five years. That comes down to $3 billion a year.

AAA’s study found nearly two-thirds of U.S. drivers are concerned about potholes. On a regional level, 74 percent of Northeast drivers have expressed concern.

About 20 percent of Northeast drivers have reported damage as a result of a pothole, according to the AAA survey of over 1,000 adults.

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“In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,’’ said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, in a statement. The organization urges state and local officials to make road maintenance a priority in their communities.

Potholes can cause punctured or torn tires, damaging them in ways that are not salvageable. It can also damage a vehicle’s wheels or inflict damage on a suspension system.

This damage can be costly to fix. U.S. drivers report spending an average of $306 to repair a vehicle damaged by a pothole. More badly damaged cars could cost around $1,000 to repair.

To avoid pothole-related damage, AAA recommends motorists take several precautions. Motorists should make certain their tires are properly inflated and have sufficient tread depth (which can be measured using the “penny trick’’). Drivers should also leave at least three to four seconds between their own vehicle and the vehicle ahead of them.

If a hitting a pothole is unavoidable, drivers should slow down as much as possible but release the brakes and attempt to straighten the steering wheel before making impact.

Prevention goes a long way. Make sure your car is equipped with a properly inflated spare tire or an inflator kit before hitting the road.

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Boston Mayor Martin Walsh is already taking the pothole issue seriously. On Tuesday, the mayor dispatched 15 to 20 Public Works Department crews to fix potholes around the city, noting the recent deep freeze and sudden warming temperatures and precipitation made roadways more vulnerable to damage.

Residents are encouraged to report potholes to the city’s 311 department. Potholes can be reported by phone, with the 311 app, on the city’s official website, or through the 311 Twitter handle.

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