Potholes: What are They and Why Are They Dangerous?

Lynn Martelli
Lynn Martelli

Potholes are a common nuisance on roads across the UK, but more than just an inconvenience, they can also be dangerous for drivers and cyclists. This article will explain what potholes are, how they form, the risks they pose, and when to seek help from a personal injury lawyer who deals with legal matters related to pothole accidents.

What Are Potholes?

A pothole is a bowl-shaped depression in the surface of a road. They form due to wear and tear, weather damage, and poor maintenance. Potholes come in all shapes and sizes – some span just a few inches across, while others can stretch over several feet. They are usually a few inches deep but can reach depths of up to 10 inches or more.

Potholes occur when the top layer of asphalt on a road starts to deteriorate. Cracks form and allow water to seep underneath the road surface. During winter, water gets trapped beneath the asphalt, freezes, and expands. This enlarges the cracks and causes the surface layer to buckle. Vehicles driving over the weakened road surface cause pieces to break apart, creating a pothole.

Why Are Potholes Dangerous?

Driving over a pothole can give your vehicle and its passengers a jarring bump. While a single pothole may seem harmless, they actually pose a few different safety risks:

  • Loss of Control – Hitting a pothole can damage your tyres, wheels, and suspension. This destabilises your car and makes it harder to steer and brake. Loss of control accidents are more likely after hitting a pothole.
  • Collisions – Veering to avoid a pothole can cause you to strike another vehicle, a cyclist, or a pedestrian. A damaged tyre or wheel from a pothole impact can also increase your stopping distance and make it harder to avoid colliding with objects in the road.
  • Injuries – The impact of a pothole can throw you or your passengers around. This can lead to soreness, bruising, and even more serious injuries depending on the severity. Cyclists are at high risk of injury if their wheels get caught in a large pothole.

Liability for Pothole Accidents

In the UK, local councils have a duty to maintain local roads. If they fail to repair dangerous potholes in a timely manner, they can be held liable for any injuries or damage that result.

A personal injury lawyer who deals with legal matters related to pothole accidents can help determine if the council breached their duty. They can also negotiate a settlement if the impact of a pothole led to any injuries or vehicle damage.

How to Avoid Pothole Damage

While councils work to repair reported potholes, it’s not always possible to avoid them entirely. Here are some tips to reduce your risk:

  • Scan the road ahead – Actively look for potholes in your lane so you can steer around them. Be extra vigilant at dawn, dusk, and night when they’re harder to spot.
  • Reduce speed – Slowing down gives you more time to spot and avoid potholes. It also reduces the impact if you do hit one.
  • Check tyres – Make sure your tyres are properly inflated and have sufficient tread depth. This helps brace against pothole impacts.
  • Hold the wheel – Keep a firm, two-handed grip on the wheel to maintain control if you hit a pothole. Avoid jerking the wheel abruptly.
  • Check for damage – Inspect tyres, wheels and suspension after hitting a pothole and get repairs as needed. Listen for any unusual noises that may indicate loose components.

While potholes may seem like an inconsequential nuisance, they actually pose a real safety risk to UK drivers and cyclists. Stay alert to their dangers, drive cautiously, and inspect for damage afterwards. If a pothole accident leads to vehicle damage or injuries, be sure to consult a personal injury lawyer to determine if the council is liable. With caution and care, it’s possible to avoid harm from these hazardous holes in the road.

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