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How to survive pothole season in Canada

EDMONTON- It’s a rite of passage for Canadian cities as winter gives way to spring: potholes. Which cities have the worst roads? And, how can you navigate the streets to save your vehicle?

The City of Edmonton expects to fill 600,000 potholes this year. Through 311 and its online reporting service, the city has received 6,793 reports of unique pothole locations from January 1, 2013 to mid-March. City council recently added $9 million in additional funding to fix Edmonton’s roads.

“I think we have it one of the worst,” says Edmonton resident Aaron Parlee, “mostly because of the environment. We’re one of the most northern cities.”

The City of Calgary expects to fill between 30,000 and 40,000 potholes this year. So far in 2013, the city’s received about 300 pothole complaints.

Toronto estimates it will fix about 200,000 potholes this year. The city has fielded about 3,300 pothole complaints by phone or online.

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Rough estimates peg Montreal’s potholes at about 50,000 this year.

How to steer clear of potholes:

–      If possible, safely change lanes, and try to drive around potholes. However, keep safety in mind – don’t cut off other drivers or put yourself in danger. Always check and signal before changing lanes.

“I can’t recommend to swerve,” says Ali Arafat, manager of Kal Tire, “you have to always be careful. The biggest thing is to be aware of what’s beside you. If you can safely avoid a pothole, that’s the best option.”

”The biggest thing to do is slow down,” says Arafat. “In my personal opinion, you should never try to avoid a pothole because you have traffic on both sides, you’re putting yourself in bigger jeopardy. The other thing is report it. Once you find a pothole report it to the city, try to work around it, if you’re travelling at a good speed and slow down, a lot of the damage can be averted.”

–      Try to avoid driving in the curb lane as potholes are often located within that lane due to drainage patterns of the roadways.

If you don’t have enough time to drive around the pothole safely, Clarence Weizenback of Freedom Ford says don’t swerve suddenly.

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“It’s important to not swerve sharply to avoid the pothole,” says Weizenback. “If you hit the pothole with the wheel at an angle it can do more damage to the suspension than simply driving over it.”

–      Avoid driving through pools of water, which can hide deep potholes.

–      If you must drive through a deep puddle, try to slow down. Be aware of pedestrians nearby who could get an unexpected shower of dirty water as you drive past.

–      Use common sense. Always drive to road conditions.

Protect your vehicle:

Hitting a pothole can cause a blown tire, bent rim, or even damage the undercarriage.

“It affects the entire steering components of the vehicle,” explains Arafat. “Your tires take most of the brunt of the force, the force then travels from the tires to the wheel, and then it goes into the shocks, your front-end components.”

“It can bend the wheel, it can actually put a side-wall damage – where you have a big blister or a big bulge on the side wall – it can cut the side wall, it can blow up the shocks of the struts, and it can wreck front-end components on the vehicle, depending on how fast you’re going, how big the pothole is, all of those kinds of things,” Arafat adds.

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Pothole causes:

Potholes are usually caused by two problems: moisture getting below the pavement surface, and traffic load.

Moisture can get under the pavement through cracks in the pavement and expansion joints. If a wet road base freezes, the road cover can expand and cause breakage.

(Source: 2013 Manitoba Public Insurance)

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