AAA finds two-thirds of American drivers concerned about potholes on local roadways

HAMILTON, NJ, February 17, 2016  – As snow and ice begin to thaw and crumbling roadways emerge, 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 approximately $3 billion annually. With two-thirds of Americans concerned about potholes on local roadways, AAA cautions drivers to remain alert to avoid pothole damage, and urges state and local governments to fully fund and prioritize road maintenance to reduce vehicle damage, repair costs and driver frustration.

“In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles,” said Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage.”

Costs for repairing damages caused by potholes can range from $50 for a simple wheel alignment to $500 or more for replacing high end wheels and tires.  But that’s only a fraction of what drivers could wind up paying.  Vehicle suspension and steering components may also be impacted to the tune of $2,500.

“Vehicle damage costs from potholes and deteriorating road conditions do not discriminate and often land heavily in the pockets of New Jersey motorists.” Noble stated.  “Over the past several winters AAA’s emergency roadside assistance has fielded over 50,000 tire related rescue calls in New Jersey alone, calls that usually come with a hefty price tag.”

According to AAA’s survey, middle- and lower-income individuals 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. This is likely due in part to the financial impact, as pothole damage can lead to expensive and extensive vehicle repairs.

AAA’s members are paying a steep price for bad road conditions, and those costs are expected to rise even higher in the years ahead. Americans rely on our nation’s roads and bridges every day, and more funding is desperately needed to prevent potholes, other unsafe conditions and longer commutes. Congress increased transportation funding in 2015 to help pay for road repair, but as much as $170 billion in additional funding is needed per year to significantly improve America’s roads and bridges.

According to AAA’s biannual Report to the Legislature, New Jersey motorists have seen their commutes worsen over the last four years.  When asked to rate their satisfaction with their regular commutes, 45 percent of respondents say their commute has gotten worse. Since 2011, the ‘worse’ rankings have risen from 33 percent to an all-time high of 45 percent in 2015.  These rankings are a clear result of years of neglect to our infrastructure.

Given the conditions of area roads and the sheer number of potholes throughout New Jersey, AAA Car Care Centers expect a surge of motorists pulling into service bays in need of pothole-related repairs. One in five drivers (20 percent)  in the Northeast, report sustaining vehicle damage that required repair as a result of hitting a pothole at least once in the last five years. That compares to 16 percent of drivers in the South, 15 percent of drivers in the West, and 10 percent of drivers in the Midwest.

AAA recommendations for encountering potholes:

  • Since tires are the only “cushion” between a pothole and a vehicle, it’s critical to ensure that tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth.   
  • To avoid striking a pothole, remain alert, scan the road ahead and drive at least 3-4 seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.
  • When a pothole strike is unavoidable, slow down as much as possible but release the brakes and straighten the steering wheel before striking the pothole.
  • Check to see if your vehicle is equipped with a spare tire or a tire inflator kit. Ensure the spare tire is properly inflated or understand tire inflator kit instructions and limitations before trouble strikes.
  • When faced with a flat tire, AAA members can request assistance at (800) AAA- HELP, by vising AAA.com/RoadsideAssistance or via the AAA Mobile App.   

Motorists in New Jersey can report potholes online at AAA.com/ReportaPothole.