The raucous sound of shovels and snowplows is quickly replaced by the thud of cars hitting potholes and a series of NSFW comments from drivers, contemplating the auto repair bills to follow.
Officially, pothole season begins Monday, when state Department of Transportation crews swap loads of road salt for asphalt to shovel in nature’s cruel joke about motorists left in local streets and major highways.
Hitting one can be expensive. The average pothole car repair costs about $600, according to a new AAA survey.
The culprit is the type of freeze, thaw, freeze cycle that causes water to expand in pavement cracks, causing a hole to deepen as traffic passes over it.
What pothole season means is that the DOT will allow repair crews to close traffic lanes as needed throughout the state during the day to fill potholes “aggressively and effectively,” the officials said. Some of this work has already begun based on DOT Twitter alerts.
So far, DOT has repaired more than 37,000 potholes on state and interstate highways between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15, said Stephen Schapiro, a DOT spokesman. Last year, the DOT fixed 34,000 potholes during the same period, he said.
The DOT does not repair potholes on local or state roads. They are the responsibility of the departmental and local public works services.
Whenever possible, DOT crews will limit daytime work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and try to avoid working in traffic lanes during peak hours. Pothole repair locations will be posted on the 511NJ website.
“The intensified repair effort will continue over the next two months until we have repaired the most significant potholes this winter,” Transport Commissioner Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti said in a statement. communicated. “NJDOT crews work year-round to fix potholes and keep our highways in good shape, but at this time of year it becomes a priority.”
Until crews reach and repair them, drivers must be careful not to damage their cars while driving through them.
A new AAA survey has found that last year, 1 in 10 drivers suffered vehicle damage severe enough to warrant repair after hitting a pothole. Potholes can damage a vehicle’s tires, alignment, suspension and shock absorbers.
“Flat tires may be considered a minor inconvenience, but a flat tire that requires a tow can be far more disruptive…and far more costly,” says AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Tracy Noble. “And, in addition to the towing, there are the repair costs.”
Last year, nearly 20% of all tire-related calls in New Jersey resulted in the need for a tow, and nearly 45% of all tire-related tows were due to the need for a tow. There was no usable spare tire because the spare tire was underinflated or not in the vehicle, according to AAA Emergency Rescue data.
Drivers can take steps to minimize potential damage from potholes by monitoring the road for potholes and driving around anything in your path, if safe to do so, Noble said.
If hitting a pothole is unavoidable, drivers should slow down as much as possible, but not panic while braking to drive through the hole slowly. If it’s too late and your vehicle has hit a pothole, drivers should watch out for any new noise or vibration and get it fixed as soon as possible, she said.
“Hitting a pothole at higher speeds increases the risk of serious damage, including wheel misalignment, steering impairment and suspension component flex or even failure,” Noble said.
Drivers can report potholes on state highways to DOT by calling 1-800-POTHOLE or by going online to fill out a form on the DOT website. The DOT is doing its best to respond quickly, especially to reports of potholes that create safety concerns due to their size and location, Schapiro said.
To report potholes on county roads, motorists went to the NJDOT website and used a list to contact the appropriate jurisdiction.
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Larry Higgs can be reached at email@example.com.