Potholes emerge early, putting drivers on notice
By NBP Staff | February 19, 2016, 13:04 EDT
BOSTON – As city workers begin sweeping up winter debris from Boston’s streets, another harbinger of spring has begun popping up all over town: the pothole.
Some are relatively benign, but others can be suspension busters ready to punish the unwary. AAA, the former American Automobile Association, says damage from potholes costs drivers about $3 billion a year nationwide and typically affects 1-in-5 motorists in the Northeast.
“The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage,” John Paul, AAA Northeast’s senior manager of traffic safety, said in a statement from the organization Wednesday. This year may produce an especially large number of potholes because of the frequent temperature changes, from subzero to spring-like, that have occurred.
Potholes develop when water that has seeped under pavement freezes and expands, then contracts as temperatures warm and ice melts. The expansion and contraction cycle can crack pavement, permitting more water to get under the surface and making it easier for the pavement to be torn up by passing vehicles. They can range from an inch or two in depth to seemingly bottomless pits.
“On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage,” Paul said. “Adding to the financial frustration, those whose vehicles incurred this type of damage had it happen frequently, with an average of three times in the last five years.”
In Boston, City Hall says repair crews generally patch potholes within two days, once one is identified either by telephone to its 311 line or through the city’s website. If your vehicle is damaged from hitting a pothole on a city street, you can file a claim with the city using guidelines it provides. But there’s a $15 filing fee, along with documentation requirements.
The procedure differs for state-owned and controlled roads. The state transportation department asks motorists to call its pothole hotline, 857-368-4636, to report one.
For both reporting systems, it’s important to be able to provide the location with as much precision as possible – these pesky creatures of the season can be hard for repair crews to find, even though they may seem to be everywhere you go at this time of year.
A pothole can open up in just a few hours, so drivers must always be on guard. AAA suggests the best way to minimize damage from potholes, if you see one that’s unavoidable and know you’ll hit it, is to slow down, then release your brakes and straighten your wheels before hitting it.