It's pothole season. Watch out for this rough section of Grubb Road. Ken Mammarella photo

Potholes aren’t that big a deal in Del., but they cost a lot

Ken MammarellaCulture, Headlines

It's pothole season. Watch out for this rough section of Grubb Road. Ken Mammarella photo

It’s pothole season. Watch out for this rough section of Grubb Road, just east of Foulk Road, in Brandywine Hundred. Ken Mammarella photo

Delawareans use Google a lot less than the rest of America to find out about potholes, and new number crunching has concluded that means potholes are less of a problem in the First State.

“Pothole data from each state isn’t available, but online searches for pothole-related terms can shed some light on where drivers are most frequently victimized by them,” according to Blueprint, which calls itself an independent publisher and comparison service.

They looked at Google Trends reports from January 2020 to October 2023. Searches for “pothole,” “potholes,” “pothole repair,” “pothole damage” and “pothole complaint” were each given a search index number from zero to one hundred. That number was then used to generate a composite score.

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Delaware was ranked 45th, with an index of 12. That’s far below No. 1 Washington, with an index of 69.25.

A casual observer might think that northern states “where winter precipitation and temperature fluctuations wreak havoc on roadways” would all be at the top, but that’s the case. Cold Minnesota is No. 2, but Alaska is No. 32, and Wyoming and Nevada have the fewest searches of all the states.

In 2022, Stacker used a different proxy – pothole complaints registered on Twitter per 1000 kilometers of roads via the Clunker Junker – to come up with a similar ranking.

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Delaware had 2 complaints per 1,000 kilometers every state, putting it 10th from the bottom. Rhode Island, Hawaii and New York topped the list, with more than 20 complaints. Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico were nestled at the bottom with less than one.

Spring is prime time for potholes, the Delaware Department of Transportation writes in a friendly FAQ. DelDOT maintains a separate page to report potholes and other problems. Wilmington also invites pothole reports to its Wilmington 311 service.

Blueprint also looked at the cities with the most pothole-related Google searches. No. 1 was New York, with Los Angeles – where the temperature is moderate most of the year – at No. 2. Wisconsin has six cities in the top 50, followed by Minnesota with five and California with four.

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Americans average $3 billion per year to repair pothole-related damages to their vehicles, AAA concluded in a 2016 survey of members. They averaged $306 each to repair pothole-related damages.

“Potholes don’t just leave you shaken – they’re a serious safety hazard and often lead to costly repair bills” Jana L. Tidwell, a manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a 2018 release on potholes. “You can easily lose control of your vehicle if you hit a pothole, possibly leading to a crash, and it’s just as dangerous to swerve to avoid it. Slow down and stay alert, especially as road crews continue to work to patch potholes throughout the region.”

Potholes can obviously damage tires, but they can also damage rims, wheels, wheel weights, struts, shock absorbers and exhaust systems.

How to avoid pothole damage

AAA and Blueprint offer these tips on avoiding pothole damage:

  • Ensure that tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth. Underinflated or worn tires are more vulnerable to pothole damage than those that are newer and properly inflated.
  • To avoid striking a pothole, remain alert, scan the road ahead and drive at least three seconds behind the vehicle ahead.
  • Beware of puddles that could disguise a deep pothole.
  • When a pothole encounter is unavoidable, slow down as much as possible but release the brakes and straighten the steering wheel before striking the pothole.
  • After you hit a pothole, listen for unusual noises or vibrations that could indicate damage.
  •  Know your choices if you get a flat. Does your car have a spare tire or a tire inflator kit? Or do you have to call for assistance?

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