ALEXANDRIA, Va., June 19, 2014—A new national survey reveals that an alarming number of car owners —about 50%—have experienced damage to their vehicles as a result of potholes over the last five years. Poor road conditions have cost consumers and the insurance industry at least $27 billion in that time period, according to the survey commissioned by Trusted Choice® and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA or the Big “I”).
The survey also found that 31% of car owners who reported pothole damage to their vehicles filed a claim with their insurance company. A surprising 65% of respondents who needed repairs said they (or a third party) paid out of pocket for the vehicle to be fixed. Only about 3% said local authorities stepped in to foot the bill.
“Potholes and poor road conditions aren’t just an inconvenience, they are an expensive and dangerous result of harsh winters like we recently experienced in many parts of the country,” says Robert Rusbuldt, Big “I” president and CEO. “This survey highlights how widespread the pothole problem is on our roadways and that the costs are astronomical to both the insurance industry and to consumers.”
While motorists in the Midwest, Northeast and North Central regions of the country reported the most pothole damage, surprisingly the numbers were not that different even in the Southern and Western regions which typically experience milder winters.
“Americans rely on their auto insurance coverage and their own pocketbooks to deal with unexpected expenses,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, research and education. “A Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent can help you choose the coverage that best suits you and your vehicle by helping you evaluate your insurance needs and risks. It’s important that your coverage is up-to-date so that you’re in the best possible position to deal with not only potholes, but any costly surprises.”
Trusted Choice® offers the following tips to motorists to help avoid costly damage from potholes:
• Drive cautiously in areas where there are known potholes or on roads where you have seen damage in the past.
• Keep an eye on traffic patterns. A number of cars that slow down or move quickly to other lanes may be a sign of major potholes or road damage ahead.
• Avoid the urge to swerve out of the way of a pothole at the last minute. You may swerve into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Risking damage to your car is wiser than risking the loss of your life or that of another person.
• Report major potholes or road damage to your state or local transportation department. Some states and localities have pothole hotlines. Motorists who think their state or local government will pay for damage to their cars may be out of luck. Laws in this area vary by jurisdiction, and even where such remedies are available, conditions may apply such as a requirement that the jurisdiction had notice of the pothole.
• If you run into a pothole and you suspect damage, pull over as soon as it is safely possible to assess it. If you notice damage, record details of the event and the specific damage—just as you would in the event of a collision with another motorist—in case you need to file an insurance claim. Your independent insurance agent or insurance company will need this information to process the claim.
• Check in at least annually with your independent insurance agent to ensure that you have the right coverage for your vehicles in the event of pothole or other damage.