Pothole damage costs $15 billion

A new study from AAA reveals that pothole damage has cost U.S. drivers $15 billion in vehicle repairs over the last five years, or about $3 billion annually.

“Two-thirds of those we surveyed said they were very concerned about potholes and rightly so,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “In the last five years, AAA estimates 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles. The problems range from punctured tires and bent wheels to expensive suspension damage.”

Every year, AAA responds to more than four million calls for flat-tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by potholes. Spare tires, an important feature missing from one-third of 2015 model year vehicles sold, are essential for vehicles impacted by pothole damage, according to AAA. Tire inflator kits have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 years but due to their limited functionality, cannot provide even a temporary fix for pothole damage. AAA has called on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of spare tires in new cars.

“Our pavement conditions in Oklahoma have taken a beating in the past year due to floods and harsh weather,” said Terri Angier, chief of Media and Public Relations for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. “While some progress has been made on roadways, most of the attention has been put into fixing our bridges first until almost all are repaired by 2020. It is critical that funding for roads and bridges continues so that the highways can also be fixed as planned. In the past decade, Oklahoma has invested significantly in its infrastructure after decades of neglect and underfunding. ODOT is focused on providing a smooth ride for the drivers and hopes it can continue its progress to fulfill its plan.”

Congress increased transportation funding in 2015 to help pay for road repair, but AAA estimates $170 billion in added funding is needed annually to significantly improve U.S. roads and bridges.

According to AAA’s survey, middle- and lower-income motorists are the most worried about potholes, with the majority of respondents in households having annual incomes under $75,000 expressing the highest levels of concern over damaged roadways.

“On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage per incident,” said Mai. “Adding to the financial frustration, those whose vehicles have been damaged by potholes tend to incur this type of damage frequently – an average of three times in the last five years.”

To minimize vehicle damage, AAA urges drivers to make sure tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth. If a pothole strike is inevitable, it is important to slow down, release the brakes and straighten steering before making contact with the pothole. To avoid potholes in the roadway, drivers should limit distractions, remain alert, scan the road and increase following distances behind the vehicles ahead.