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Navigating Potholes

Nothing is worse than a flat tire caused by a pothole. During winter Illinois roads take an absolute beating with snow, ice, sleet, salt, plows and sub-zero temperatures all contributing to the bashing. This freeze/thaw routine ravages streets and leads to every driver’s favorite, potholes. Like car accidents caused by leaves in the fall, these pesky obstacles can cause serious damage to vehicles and can make dangerous swerving a regular occurrence leading to car accidents.

You might not think potholes are a big deal, but the numbers suggest a different conclusion. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, in the winter of 2007-2008, more than 450,000 potholes were repaired in the city.  It is estimated that the average pothole costs around 50 dollars to fix bringing the cost of potholes for the 2007-2008 winter season to 22.5 million dollars. Keep in mind that those numbers are only for Chicago. The problem is so extensive that the city even went on to run a three day festival known as “potholepalooza,” which was intended to encourage citizens to report asphalt craters.

Potholes are holes in the roadways that vary in shape and size. Generally, potholes are caused by the expansion and contraction of ground water under the pavement. Once the water freezes it expands causing the pavement to stretch, bend and crack. Then, as the ice melts, the pavement contracts and leaves gaps on the road’s surface. The use of salt also has detrimental effects on our roads. Salt actually lowers the temperature at which water will freeze, creating more occurrences for the freeze thaw cycle to occur. So, knowing potholes are going to be more prevalent during the winter and spring months you might be wondering how you can prepare?

The key to preparing for potholes always lies with tire maintenance. Cold temperatures tend to deflate your tires. Keeping your tires filled to the manufacturer’s specifications can give you the cushion you need for the inevitable pothole collision. When a dead-on collision does occur experts recommend that you pull over to look for problems. Potholes can alter your vehicles alignment therefore wreaking havoc on your suspension. So, be aware of any abnormal noises or vibrations.

Highway Potholes – Call IDOT

If you do happen to spot a pothole on an Illinois road or highway, you can call the Illinois Department of Transportation at 1-800-452-4368 to report it. Also, if your vehicle happens to be damaged by one of these craters you do have some recourse. It is possible to file for reimbursement for pothole-related repairs from the state or local municipality based on where the damage occurred.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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