Drivers expected to spend billions on vehicle repairs due to pothole damage

Potholes due to harsh winter costing billions

Potholes: they’re massive, they’re pesky and they’re costly.

"The large number of potholes have been grating on the nerves and the wallet," said Michael Green with AAA.

And they are costing billions of dollars for U.S. drivers. The insurance industry estimates pothole damage sets motorists back almost $5 billion a year on car repair costs due to potholes.

"This time of year potholes seem to multiply along with driver frustration," Green said.

A survey by AAA found that 52 percent of drivers believe roads should be improved. More than 70 percent of those people believe potholes and crumbling roads need improvement.

Hoosier crews did make some headway filling potholes last week, but another round of winter weather is set to hit the state Sunday. Both the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works said they have drivers on standby, they have restocked salt barns but they are both already over-budget.

"Well clearly the budget is definitely over what we anticipated. But again, this was a historic winter. We will continue to remove snow from our city streets. Safety is our number one priority," DPW spokeswoman Lesley Gordon said.

An auto service owner in Kansas City said he has been flooded with customers whose cars have been damaged by potholes.

"We've seen a lot of tire problems from people hitting potholes recently," Tom Keegan said. "We usually put on two tires a day."

It’s not just tires that need replaced though. Keegan said, it’s common for a driver to need a tire, wheel and a wheel-alignment after hitting a pothole. Those repairs could set a driver back $500 to $600.

Cities around the country are doing what they can to repair the holes for drivers.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is spending at least $500,000 more this year than normal to repair potholes. 

In Cleveland, the city has already used more than 430 tons of hot asphalt to patch the holes.

In Kansas City, Mo., local city crews patched 4,200 potholes between Oct. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2014.  During the same time period last year, crews patched 4,236, a change of less than 1 percent.

Last year a man in Mississippi was taking matters into his own hands. He called himself the “Robin Hood of the roads” and he and his girlfriend filled more than 50 potholes around the city.

Repairing the holes can be a slow process. Alan Brubaker, an Ohio engineer, said the ideal time to repair holes is on dry days. This winter, dry days have been few and far between for most of the country experiencing some of the worst winter weather in centuries.

Another caveat: The ideal temperature for making repairs to the hole-littered streets is at least 40 degrees or above, and with freeze-thaw cycles being experienced across most of the country, potholes are popping up more than usual, Brubaker said.

“With the winter, when it gets really cold, the surfaces shrink. And so anytime pavements shrink, it’s going to find its weakest point to open up a crack and once that crack opens, we have much more ability for the pothole to occur.”

Depending on what road those pesky holes are on, drivers could be reimbursed by state and local governments. According to the National Association of State Legislatures, states most commonly reimburse drivers by allowing them to file claims for car repair costs.

In Indiana, the state department of transportation has received more damage claims in the first two months of 2014 than it received all last year. Since Jan. 1, 2014 more than 650 personal injury or property damage claims have been filed.

For some states, the claim process is done through their respective departments of transportation. Others do it at the local level. (Links to learn how to file claims in some states are listed below.)

In Michigan, a local business/citizen partnership called the Michigan Transportation Team raffles off $500 each week during the winter to lucky drivers to help cover the costs of pothole damage, said James Hanseen with the National Association of State Legislatures.

Costly and annoying for most, two artists used them for inspiration creating scenes and photographing them in  New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, and Toronto.

Information on filing a claim in with the government for repairs:

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