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How to safeguard your vehicle from another bump in the road

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No matter how experienced you are behind the wheel, a change in road surface conditions, such as harsher weather, can lead to hazards and ultimately affect safety for all road users. A hazard heavily influenced by extreme weather conditions is potholes, and during the winter season, the issue worsens.

 

As National Pothole Day on January 15th approaches, Teletrac Navman looks at the constant challenge potholes create for road users and how best to navigate them.

There is no denying that potholes are a massive issue for UK road users. Around 1.5 million potholes are repaired each year in England and Wales – that’s the equivalent of one every 21 seconds[1]. Despite this demonstrating a considerable effort to solve the pothole problem, the RAC has reported that between June and September 2021, it dealt with the largest proportion of pothole-related callouts in any third quarter since 2006[2]. Additionally, between April and June of 2020 alone, some 1,766 drivers suffered pothole-related accidents[3]. So, it’s no surprise that 46% of drivers say the poor state of local roads and lack of maintenance is one of their four biggest motoring-related concerns[4]

National Pothole Day this month serves as a timely opportunity to discuss the issue and encourage everyone on the road to try and avoid them at all costs, to help prevent personal injury, vehicle damage, and costly repairs.

 

So, what are potholes?

Potholes are depressions on a road surface where traffic has removed broken pieces of the pavement. They are formed by water entering the road through existing cracks – and in winter, cold weather and the freezing/thawing process creates further problems. When traffic thumps down, it further enlarges the diameter of the pothole and sets up a cycle of damage where larger cracks allow more water and ice formation within the road.

 

How to spot potholes and the safest way to navigate them

 

Look ahead

Potholes can appear overnight, especially after a hard rainfall or short freeze, so it’s essential to look ahead and pay attention to darker areas on the road surface regardless of how well you know the road.

Motorists should also be wary of puddles in the winter months, as they can conceal potholes large enough to cause severe damage to your car. Watching the vehicle in front of you is critical as well – If you notice them manoeuvre swiftly, chances are there is a pothole. Keep an appropriate distance between yourself and other vehicles so you can react safely when a pothole does arise.

 

Drive around or react appropriately

If drivers are looking ahead, they should hopefully spot a pothole in time to take the safest possible action: whether that be manoeuvring around the pothole or amending their driving accordingly. Potholes should be treated like any other obstacle, such as oncoming cyclists or pedestrians, and, as such, it is vital that motorists only manoeuvre to avoid a pothole when it is safe to do so, having checked all mirrors and having ensured that no other potential hazards are on the road. Otherwise, it could potentially cause more damage.

When manoeuvring to avoid a pothole isn’t a safe option, drivers must slow down as much as possible. Whilst motorists might be tempted to slam on their brakes, they should avoid it as it can damage the vehicle’s suspension. More seriously, it could also cause a rear end collision. Instead, let off the brakes the moment before you hit the pothole allowing your car to absorb the blow. Drivers should also hold the steering wheel tightly, as hitting a pothole with a loose grip can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

 

Check for damage

If you hit a pothole, check for damage at the next safest opportunity. Keep an eye out for loss of tire pressure, noticeable dents in your wheel rims, vibrations in the steering wheel and the steering wheel pulling to one side.

For more information on the effect that adverse weather conditions can have on road safety, visit Teletrac Navman’s free interactive road safety dashboard, which assimilates the data from the annual Department for Transport (DfT) ‘Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain’ report.

Click here to visit the new dashboard.

 

[1] https://tarmac.com/potholes/

[2] https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/car-industry-news/2021/11/29/rac-records-worst-third-quarter-for-pothole-breakdowns-in-15-years

[3] https://www.politics.co.uk/reference/potholes/

[4] https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/features/rac-report-on-motoring-2021/

 


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