With pothole repairs up in 2022, AAA warns drivers to be careful
With pothole damage on the rise in 2022, AAA is warning drivers to keep an eye out for cracked pavement this spring.
The motorist association reports a nationwide 57% spike in cars and trucks needing repairs after encountering potholes last year compared to 2021.
"Potholes are an unfortunate side effect of the snow and can wreak havoc on your vehicle," AAA spokeswoman Molly Hart said Monday in a statement.
"Driving over one of these can cost you hundreds of dollars in repairs. So be sure to keep a look out for these hazardous holes in the roads, and be safe when driving around them."
AAA researchers estimated 44 million drivers paid for pothole damage in 2022 in contrast with 28 million in 2021. The average bill was $406.
Fortunately for 2023 motorists, "this winter was a rather mild one -- with less freeze-thaw cycles," Illinois Department of Transportation spokeswoman Maria Castaneda said. "As a result, we are seeing less potholes overall."
What causes a pothole? To begin, you need cracked pavement, often a result of heavy truck traffic. When precipitation seeps inside the crack and becomes trapped, freezing temperatures will turn the moisture into ice. The ice heaves the pavement up and the cracks grow.
Passing vehicles continue to weaken the pavement and, when thawing occurs, more water is collected. With continued freezing and thawing, the road surface eventually collapses.
Castaneda noted that the Midwest's climate means potholes can pop up anywhere.
However, "roads that are newly resurfaced tend to be less susceptible" to potholes, she said. With older and more worn roads, water can get in more easily.
Tire repairs are the most common fallout from hitting a pothole, followed by alignment, wheel and suspension problems, researchers found.
While some potholes may have your number, there are ways to minimize damage, AAA noted. Those include:
• Test air pressure once a month when tires are cool using the recommended levels typically listed on a sticker on the driver's side door.
• If your vehicle isn't handling well or pulls to the left or right, have the suspension and alignment checked.
• Keep space between your vehicle and others on the road so the pavement ahead is clearly visible.
• Try to avoid driving through standing water that can conceal potholes.
• If you know you're going to hit a pothole, slow down carefully without jamming on the brakes. The faster a vehicle is going, the higher the risk of issues such as flat tires and suspension problems.
"IDOT is committed to patching potholes as soon as possible, especially potholes that develop in travel lanes and are considered a potential hazard to traffic," Castaneda said. "It's a constant operation, anytime our highway maintenance workers are not plowing snow or treating roads for ice this time of year, they are out patrolling and repairing potholes."
Drivers can report potholes on state roads and highways at (800) 452-4368.
The state does provide compensation for damages to qualifying motorists. For information, go to idot.illinois.gov/travel-information/report-a-problem/claims/index or call (847) 705-4048.