Pothole Survival: Lighter cars, slower drivers fare better on bad roads

Posted at 6:39 AM, Apr 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-28 14:13:52-04

Construction season is well underway, but that doesn’t mean the threat of potholes will disappear any time soon.

According to experts, a big enough pothole can cause the same damage as a 35 mph crash. It’s not just tires and wheels that are at-risk, but also suspension, steering and the alignment of your vehicle can all be compromised by road conditions.

At the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, road conditions are a big part of their daily research.

Jill Dennis, an engineer on the newest Equinox, told 7 Action News that they have hundreds of miles of roads simulating highways, city roads, and the most devastating potholes you can imagine.

“We actually have an entire track dedicated to potholes from small to large,” said Dennis. “It’s a full facility dedicated to potholes.”

They work on durability and noise-reduction.

Dennis said that they’re downsizing the weight of vehicles to lessen the wear-and-tear. The smaller load means more durability because less mass is being tossed when you slam into the worst of the worst potholes.

“It’s so surprising that after the six month durability testing where we’re just torturing vehicles through all the different elements and roads, that we get into them and they’re still pleasing and nice to drive,” said Dennis. “It’s not like you’re driving around a rattle trap.”

Of course, not everyone can buy a new vehicle. That doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause.

Dennis noted that the best thing you can do is avoid the potholes, short of that — you need to slow down.

“If you can’t (avoid the potholes) you want to go as slow as you can, and keep your hands on the wheel so you’re always in control.”

There is preventative care too. The first step in avoiding roads getting the better of your car is to make sure that your tires are all properly inflated. Plus, defensive driving can help. Insurance experts note that puddles often disguise the worst potholes following a steady rain, and that leads to direct hits which leads to more damage.

The Michigan Department of Transportation offers safety tips, as well. They note that while slowing down before hitting a pothole is ideal, you also don’t want to brake directly over a pothole. That can cause more damage.