How Dangerous Are Potholes?
Even when they are seemingly miniscule and do not pose a threat, a pothole can cause severe damage to your vehicle. And they become more of a hazard as spring comes around, bringing danger to drivers, motorcyclists, and even pedestrians. In fact, AAA estimates that potholes cost Americans over $26 billion annually in vehicle repairs.
A pothole is formed by the natural cycle of freezing and thawing that the spring season brings; as snow and ice melt and seep into cracks in the road’s surface, the water then freezes overnight as temperatures drop, expanding the ground. This, combined with the constant weight on the road surface by vehicles, expand these cracks even more until they become potholes. Potholes can be small and minor at first but can seemingly become massive in just a few hours of traffic and the freezing and thawing pattern.
Threats Posed by Potholes
Potholes pose a major threat to drivers. The sheer impact a pothole causes can cause major structural damage to your vehicle, and can even harm the driver themselves:
- Tire damage. Your tires are the first to sustain damage should you hit a pothole. Potholes can cause tears, leaks, and blowouts if hit at a specific angle, particularly since potholes can sometimes have sharp edges. Of course, tires with tears or holes will cause a flat tire, while a blown-out tire can cause the driver to lose control, which will likely lead to a car accident.
- Steering damage. The impact of a pothole can damage a vehicle’s steering components, as they are attached to the tires and wheels of the car. When a car’s steering assembly is damaged, it can cause loss of control and severe vibrations in the vehicle, as well as misaligning the wheels, where the driver will feel the car pull left or right.
- Exhaust damage. The undercarriage of your car is a vital area for not only suspension and steering, but also for your exhaust system, which attaches to the engine area in the front. When a car hits a pothole, it likely will bottom out, causing damage to the undercarriage and possibly the exhaust system. Damage to the exhaust can cause an exhaust leak, which can lead to carbon monoxide leaking into the cabin, as well as internal engine damage.
- Injury. Potholes not only can damage your vehicle, but also can damage the driver and passengers. The force of your car hitting a pothole causes a jolt through the passenger’s body, which can cause strains or sprains in the neck, back, or shoulders. It can also lead to concussions, whiplash, stress fractures, internal damage, and much more if the impact is severe enough. Additionally, if you lose control of the vehicle because of the pothole, an accident may occur, leading to further personal injury.
- Motorcycles. Potholes pose an even bigger threat to motorcyclists. A motorcycle hitting a pothole will very likely lead into severe damage, as well as the rider being thrown off, causing injury or even death.
Pothole Safety Tips
Since potholes are so dangerous to the everyday driver, it is important to know that you can minimize the damage you sustained. The following are a few safety tips for dealing with potholes:
- Leave enough room. Leave enough room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you so that you can see any potholes on the road ahead, giving yourself enough time to avoid them.
- Be aware. The best way to prevent pothole damage is to avoid them as best as possible. But you want to do so only when it is safe; you do not want to swerve out of the way of a pothole and cause an accident instead. Be sure to check your blind spots and your mirrors before maneuvering to avoid the pothole.
- Puddles. A good indicator of a pothole is a puddle, so avoid driving into puddles or standing water, as the ground beneath has likely given out.
- Driving over. If you must cross over a pothole, do so slowly and do not speed up. Also, do not use your brakes, especially when in the pothole, as that could cause a puncture either in the tread or in the sidewall. Coast over the pothole and use the car’s momentum to roll through it instead, while keeping the steering wheel straight.
- Tires. Always be mindful of your tires’ condition and your tire pressure, as having poor tires or the incorrect tire pressure could cause even more damage to your car when hitting a pothole. If your tire pressure is not what the manufacturer recommended, you risk further damage to your tire or suspension, as well as misalignment and uneven wearing of the tread.
Potholes leave the average motorist almost $400 in repairs annually, which include repairs to tires, suspension components, struts, and exhaust systems. Statistics also show that vehicle traffic is expected to increase by 25 percent by the year 2030, meaning more damaged roads and potholes if repairs are not consistently made. Chances of hitting a pothole and causing injury and damage to your vehicle are higher now than ever, and the chances are likely increasing.
The question arises who is liable should you hit a pothole. Technically, it is the municipality, county, or state where the pothole is located. However, it is often difficult to uphold a lawsuit, as you have to prove that the government was negligent in damaging your vehicle, as well as the following:
- You must prove that the institution you are suing was aware of the unsafe road condition and that they owned the road.
- The unsafe condition was not avoidable and was indeed hazardous.
- The unsafe condition of the road is the direct cause of the accident.
- The unsafe condition was so hazardous that the institution should have anticipated the issue but failed to repair the issue.
- Failing to fix the issue after the institution was aware of it contributed directly to the accident.
Proving all these points may make it difficult to sue or file a lawsuit against the government, but it is not impossible. Some counties and state governments are working with the public to identify potholes out on the road.
Washington DC Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Drivers Involved in Accidents from Potholes
If you hit a pothole and suffered severe damage or injury, reach out to the Washington DC car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. Our experienced legal team will investigate the cause of the accident and will fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.