Report Potholes

by Michael Organ
The Challenge

Potholes are not just unsightly and annoying – they are a safety threat to every motorist. Hitting a pothole can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, possibly resulting in a crash. Swerving to avoid a pothole can be just as dangerous.

Potholes are bowl-shaped openings that usually have raveled edges and can be up to 10 inches deep. Potholes occur when the top (asphalt) layer of the roadway has worn away, exposing the concrete base. They are especially common after severe winter weather.

About 500,000 auto insurance claims are filed each year for pothole damage, according to the Independent Insurance Agents of America. Nearly $4.8 billion is spent each year to repair damage to Americans’ cars resulting from run-ins with potholes and other dangerous road conditions.

Issues cars experience from potholes commonly include alignment problems and damage to undercarriages, shocks, mufflers, axles, tires, and hubcaps. The damage may not be immediately noticeable to motorists but may build up over time due to multiple collisions.

Worst of all, some motorists react to potholes at the last minute, causing the motorist to swerve out of the way of a pothole and into the path of an oncoming car or truck. This risks far more serious damage and potentially loss of life.

The good news is that concerned citizens like you can report potholes -- making roads safer and sparing others the costs and problems that come from hitting potholes.

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If you discover a pothole on a state highway, contact your state's Department of Transportation. (To easily find the phone number or E-mail address, search the Internet by state name and the phrase “Department of Transportation.”)

If you discover a pothole on a local street, call the local government agency responsible for repairing roads. Depending on the size of the community, the responsible local agency might be called "Department of Transportation," "Department of Surface Transportation." "Department of Public Works," or just "City Hall."

State and local government telephone numbers can be found on the blue pages of your telephone book. (You can also search the yellow pages online.)

Be prepared to provide the following information about the pothole:

  • Dimensions: Length, width, and depth of the hole.
  • Location: Street address or intersection. Is the pothole on the sidewalk or in the roadway? In the driving lane or the parking lane?
  • Additional reasons for urgency: Did you see or hear water in the pothole? Is the pothole impacting a bus route, a school crossing or other pedestrian crossing area, or in a trolley track area?

When making your first call to report a pothole, please be patient: you may get transferred a few times. But it should take no longer than 15 minutes to get your information to the right person who can arrange for repairs. Your call may save a friend or neighbor from serious injury or damage to their car.

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