The Facts About Potholes
You’re driving along, maybe enjoying the holiday lights, maybe just cruising the backroads. When- WHAM- there’s a large jolt, your steering wheel jerks, and the whole car drives off shaking. You have a flat tire and your nice relaxing drive has turned into a mess. Why? Because of a pothole.
Potholes are a serious aggravation for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and construction companies alike! These holes are often difficult to fix without excellent road traffic control because of their location in highly traveled areas. They can cause hundreds of dollars in damages to vehicles and people alike.
Stats About Potholes
Most people don’t consider poor road conditions to be a contributing factor to their yearly expenses. The truth is that potholes and similar roadway damage costs Pennsylvania drivers an average of $471 dollars a year in vehicle maintenance. Even more disheartening is that nearly a quarter of urban roads in Pennsylvania are classified as in poor condition. In total, pothole damage has cost drivers across the United States approximately three billion dollars every year.
Unfortunately, potholes don’t cause damage just to cars. In July of 2011, a community college student in Oregon tripped and fell in a pothole. She suffered from several different injuries, including a concussion, all of which cost her $14,000 dollars in medical bills. Perhaps most unfortunate, is that the pothole was located next to her handicap parking spot. She had a disabling bone disease. Because of the damages suffered, she sued her school for $375,000 dollars. The case was dismissed, but the medical bills remained.
Why They Happen
Potholes are caused by a recurring cycle of freezing and thawing. When water leaks into the pavement and freezes, it expands. This places additional pressure on the asphalt and widens any cracks or defects. As the water thaws, it leaks away, leaving a gap behind. Heavy cars and trucks drive over the area, further weakening the pavement. As the cycle continues, the pavement struggles to keep up with the continuous cycle of expanding and contracting. Eventually a pothole forms, creating a dangerous hazard for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists alike.
Many areas of Pennsylvania are subject to below and above freezing weather all winter long. One day, we’ll have snow and the next it will be 40 degrees, melting the snow and creating enough water to leak into the pavement, only to freeze that night. This cycle speeds up in the Springtime. In March and April, the world begins to warm up, melting the snow. But there’s often enough frost deep in the ground to freeze the water below the pavement. More potholes appear in the Spring than any other time of year.
How They’re Fixed
Ideally, potholes would be fixed as soon as they’re noticed. Otherwise, the continued pressure of cars driving over the area will weaken it further, causing the pothole to expand. There are two different ways to repair a pothole: a cold patch or a hot patch. Cold patching a pothole is much easier, faster, and less expensive. However, a cold patch does not address the root cause of the problem and can lead to a recurring issue that costs more to solve in the long run. A hot patch takes some time and knowledge to do properly. While it is more expensive upfront, the patch will last longer and hopefully solve the problem altogether.
To cold patch a pothole, first you have to clear out any loose debris, remove loose rocks or gravel and take out any large chunks that are on their way to breaking off. Then, you use a pre-mixed asphalt solution to fill in the hole and tamp it down until it is level with the road surface. A hot patch repair should be done by trained professionals with the help of a road traffic control company, instead of a layperson or homeowner. Contractors will excavate the pavement surrounding the pothole before filling and sealing it with hot asphalt.
You should never try to fix a pothole yourself, as it is dangerous to work on the road. You could also cause more damage if you don’t know what you’re doing.
How You Can Help
Unfortunately, potholes are low priority for the organizations that control community infrastructure. While they do cost vehicle owners in terms of maintenance and can even cause accidents, they’re overlooked in exchange for issues like guardrail maintenance and sign upkeep. As a driver on your community’s roads, there are some things you can do to avoid damage from potholes and to ensure that it’s ranked a little higher on your government’s priority list.
When you first notice a pothole in your community, contact your local department of transportation or state highway administration to bring their attention to the issue. If the pothole is not on a state road, contact your town’s government to discuss resolving the issue. Government officials can’t be everywhere at once. Oftentimes, they rely on their constituents to police their own roadways for infrastructure issues. Politely bringing their attention to a pothole is a good way to ensure that it’s at least on their radar.
While you’re waiting for the pothole to be fixed, there are a few ways you can avoid vehicle damage when driving in poor road conditions. Make sure all of your tires are properly inflated and have good depth of tread. Your tires are the only cushion between you and the pothole. Without proper tread and inflation, your car will absorb the majority of the impact, which may cause damage. When you approach a pothole, slow down, release the brakes and ensure that you have a firm grip on the steering wheel before making contact with the damaged area. If you go too fast, the pothole can cause more damage to your car, as well as turn your car in an unexpected direction.
Why Directional Traffic Cares
So why are we, a road traffic control company, talking about potholes? We provide traffic flagging services for a lot of pavement management companies that fix potholes. Over the years, we’ve come to be a bit of an expert on the subject!
Creating a work zone to fix a pothole can be complicated based on where they form in the roadway. Sometimes potholes are in the middle of a busy state highway or neatly placed by the side of a rural backroad. It’s our job to provide the best road traffic control to help maintain the infrastructure of the communities we serve. From repaving a road to repairing a pothole, no job is too big or small.