Potholes vs. Automobiles Who Wins?

By Adam Mostafa

You are driving in the street and everything is calm. You feel the pressure of the gas pedal and you are in sync with your movements of change between the brakes and gas pedals. Then out of nowhere BOOM, your car feels as if it falls and you feel your car shake for a quick second. Terrified, you look around wondering if your car is the problem or you pressed something you shouldn’t have but no worries it was just a pothole. A pothole is an inverted circle that when a tire goes over it, it damages your car.  In 2017, there were approximately 60,712 total complaints regarding potholes in New York city. The effect that these potholes have on vehicles and the rate at which they are fixed is very slow. A study done by IJCRT explains the traffic congestion caused by potholes may lead to a waste of fuel and increasing air pollution. The release of carbon monoxide and other pollutants by congested cars also account for environmental concerns and health problems. This accounts for the wear and tear on vehicles that occur because of idling in traffic and frequent acceleration and braking, which may lead to more frequent repairs and replacements. Frustration that comes from slow, stop and go conditions of the traffic causes discomfort for passengers and leads to weakness of vehicles that affect it`s engine and suspension. Congestion increases the tendency of collision which may lead to a series of injuries and fatalities.

The types of damage that a pothole can inflict on a vehicle are both varied and expensive. Most commonly, potholes harm a vehicle’s tires. As the tires of a vehicle are continuously in contact with the road, it puts them within the front lines of a pothole’s incursion. When an automobile’s tire enters a pothole, the drive on the tires, which is relatively adjusted on a level surface, is now not evenly distributed. As the tire drops into a pothole, the vehicle is not level, and the weight starts to move more intensely onto the tire that’s generally lower than the tires on the normal street surface. The harm happens when the tire exits the pothole. With an uneven amount of weight on the submerged tire, the damage when coming out the pothole is serious. In the event that it is serious enough, possible damage could misshape the tire, break it, or twist its edge.

Additionally, The damage can extend towards the suspension.  A vehicle’s suspension framework, which basically works as a safeguard, is made up of springs. Research done by Pothole.Info states that these springs, beneath ordinary constraint, will wear out after a few tens of thousands of miles, but potholes impact their life expectancy. This damage will decrease the value of the car and could also put the driver’s life at risk. While being a burden for vehicles, potholes can also affect vehicular traffic. While driving, a driver must be aware of all their surroundings. A study done by IJCRT, a Scholarly journal on the subject, further highlights the effect on vehicular traffic. It summarizes how people would react when they see a pothole; they tend to slow down and proceed to take their time to minimize damage. This leads to a motion of deceleration and even stoppage in streets and even highways. A driver may even take drastic measures to not hit a pothole and could cause an accident. This can lead to small injuries or even severe ones. Furthermore, the increased traffic from a pothole can lead to more pollution in the air. When cars burn gasoline, they emit pollutants. When cars drive more, they are emitting more pollutants, which negatively affects the air we breathe in. Drivers have to burn more gas and produce more carbon pollution to go the same distance. 

I asked a neighbor — Teresa Jennings— to weigh in on our area’s pothole problem and to speak on her experience with them. Jennings has been a resident of the area for 13 years and has seen a fair share of potholes.

“All of a sudden there was this loud noise, like an explosion underneath my car,” said the Queens resident. “I was like ‘Oh my God, my car!’ The tire was completely flat, like flat right to the rim.”Pictures she took of the damage shows the mangled tire. She also took pictures of the offending pothole and tried to report it to the Department of Transportation, but nobody returned her call, she said. After getting her tire fixed, Jennings submitted the $269 bill to the Department for reimbursement and waited for a response. Six months later she finally heard back. Her claim was denied.

She said “It’s very frustrating. I was told every time I called that the lawyer handling my case was in a meeting. Every single time he was in a meeting” When asked what happened next, she responded with, “You would think the law would be a little more supportive of people who suffer damages to their cars because we can’t maintain our own roads” Jennings stated that pothole claims can seem like a waste of time because they are so difficult to win.

While drivers take precautions in order to avoid potholes the best solution is to fix them. But is this really the case? Nothing is more important than response time to fix a pothole. Using data collected and  provided by NYC Open Data on potholes and the city’s response time to repair them, Diamond Injury Law was able to discover that on average, it takes New York city road crews about two and a half days to respond to a pothole complaint. Each borough differs. For example Brooklyn averages around 3.9 days for the road crew response, which is the longest. While Staten Island is 1 day and 5 hours (fastest). Each area has more potholes than others so it does make sense.  Not only does it have a high amount of potholes it just showcases more car damage for the car driver. 

The effect of potholes could cause a variety of problems. So what could drivers do to battle the unfavorable impact of potholes? Indeed, from a driving viewpoint, very little. Things like dodging potholes and keeping a protected vehicle are acceptable deterrent methods, however aren’t generally viable or possible. If you were to get into an accident with a pothole and it has affected your car horribly, I`d suggest going to your nearest mechanic workshop and let them know that a pothole did this to your car and give them the speed you were going when you ran over the pothole. Those two variables are very important when fixing your vehicle. Just remember to avoid potholes to the best of your ability and stay safe.

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