Motorists will pay an estimated $3 billion in vehicle damage caused by potholes this year

Sure it was a mild winter. That may have meant fewer sprays of salt or brine on New Jersey’s roadways, however, now that the weather is warmer and road trips are underway, drivers may need to maneuver around potholes that have cropped up. AAA estimates that motorists across the country will pay $3 billion in vehicle damage caused by potholes this year.

Most drivers mistakenly think a milder winter and the lack of a major snowfall or two during the season means fewer potholes. Well, that’s not the case. Typically, potholes form when moisture collects in small holes and cracks in the road surface. As temperatures rise and fall, the moisture expands and contracts due to freezing and thawing. This breaks up the pavement and, combined with the weight of passing cars, eventually results in the formation of potholes. That’s when flat-tire roadside rescue calls to AAA spike.

“The tire is the most important cushion between a vehicle and a pothole,” says Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Unfortunately, a growing number of motorists are driving late model automobiles that have no spare tires, and sometimes motorists don’t know that until they experience a flat car caused by hitting a pothole.”

While potholes are more prevalent in early spring, they can crop up year-round. According to the New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT), in the past five years, NJDOT has repaired on average 218,500 potholes per year. The good news is they are using 13 semi-automated trucks that can heat a mix of asphalt and gravel before injecting the mixture into the pothole. Repairs can be completed more quickly safely than the traditional ‘throw and go’ method because the machines save time and money and repairs last longer. “They also allow our crews to cover a larger area more quickly and safely because the worker doesn’t have to get out of the truck,” says Andrew Tunnard, Assistant Commissioner for Operations and Maintenance at NJDOT.

Every year, AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by a persistent plague of potholes. “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage,” says Noble.

Costs for repairing damages caused by potholes can range from $50 for a simple wheel alignment to $500 or more for replacing high end wheels and tires. But that’s only a fraction of what drivers could wind up paying. Vehicle suspension and steering components may also be impacted to the tune of $2,500.

“Vehicle damage costs from potholes and deteriorating road conditions do not discriminate and often land heavily in the pockets of New Jersey motorists.” Noble stated. “Over the past several winters AAA’s emergency roadside assistance has fielded over 50,000 tire related rescue calls in New Jersey alone, calls that usually come with a hefty price tag.” Given the conditions of area roads and the sheer number of potholes throughout New Jersey, AAA Car Care Centers expect a surge of motorists pulling into service bays in need of pothole-related repairs.

AAA recommendations for encountering potholes:

•Ensure that tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth.
•To avoid striking a pothole, remain alert, scan the road ahead and drive at least 3‐4 seconds behind the vehicle ahead.
•When a pothole encounter is unavoidable, slow down as much as possible but release the brakes and straighten the steering wheel before striking the pothole.
•Check to see if your vehicle is equipped with a spare tire or a tire inflator kit. Ensure the spare tire is properly inflated or understand tire inflator kit instructions and limitations before trouble strikes

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