It's one of those beautiful sunny afternoons mid-winter. Roads have been cleared of snow and they're actually dry allowing for what you think will be a stress free drive until..."bam" the car in front of you swerved and you see the "monstrous pothole" too late. You grimmace at the "bone crunching" sound of metal hitting pavement. Your car shimmys as you steer off to the shoulder with a flat tire and possibly other under carriage damage. There goes your day!
Large potholes are dangerous and can cause you to lose control with potential damage to your car and even injury to yourself or others.
"Potholes are not only a nuisance but they can also pose a serious hazard to drivers and their vehicles. Driving cautiously is always important, but more so on roads filled with potholes. The best advice for dealing with potholes is to avoid them and minimize potential damage if you strike one," says Amanda Dean, vice-president, Atlantic, IBC.
Here are some safety tips to help avoid potholes -
Keep enough distance between you and the car in front to be able to see and react to potholes coming your way.
Never hit your brakes before encountering a pothole. This can actually cause more damage to your vehicle.
Try and slow down as much as possible if contact with a pothole is inevitable. Let off the brakes the moment before you hit the pothole allowing your car to absorb the blow.
Hold the steering wheel tightly. Hitting a pothole with a loose grip can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
Be especially wary of puddles during the end of winter, they can conceal massive potholes large enough to cause severe damage to your car (or sink it!).
Always maintain the proper air pressure in your tires.
Here are some indications that you should take your car into the shop to have it checked for damage:
Reoccurring loss of air pressure
Noticeable bends/dents in wheel rims
Vibration in the wheel or in the seat
Steering wheel is not aligned straight
Damage caused by a pothole is considered a collision and subject to that particular deductible e.g. $1000. If the deductible doesn't already make a bad situation worse, these are considered a single-car "at fault" accident. This needs to be carefully considered and reviewed with your broker before pursuing a claim with your insurer. If the damage is minor enough or even slightly over your deductible and claim, with the possibility of increased rates, may not be worthwhile.
If you do file a claim, get as much information as possible, including taking photos of the damage and pothole. Photos could help speed up the claims process.
Consider a claim against the particular municipality of the pothole location. The Provincial Government sets standards referred to as MMS for Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways which can be found under the Province's E-Laws website.
These standards require a city to fix a pothole within a period that ranges between 4 days and 30 days, depending on the size of the pothole and whether it is on a paved or an unpaved road. It is important to note that the City's obligation to fix a pothole is triggered only after the municipality becomes aware of the problem.
When the City receives a pothole claim, the Claims Unit will determine whether the Minimum Maintenance Standards for Municipal Highways were met. If the City met those standards, the City is not responsible. If these standards have not been met there is a chance they will assume responsibility for the damage and compensate you accordingly.
Safe driving out there!