Photo via Wikipedia.

Photo via Wikipedia.

Damage to vehicles caused by potholes on local roadways has cost drivers an average of $3 billion per year over the past five years, according to a new study from AAA.

About two-thirds of Americans say they're concerned about potholes on local roadways, according to the study, which also urges state and local governments to fully fund and prioritize road maintenance to reduce vehicle damage.

"In the last five years, 16 million drivers across the country have suffered pothole damage to their vehicles," said John Nielsen, AAA's managing director of automotive engineering and repair. "The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage."

Middle- and lower-income individuals are the most worried about potholes with the majority of respondents in households having annual incomes under $75,000 expressing the highest levels of concern over damaged roadways, according to AAA's survey. This is likely due in part to the financial impact, as pothole damage can lead to expensive and extensive vehicle repairs.

"On average, American drivers report paying $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage," said Nielsen. "Adding to the financial frustration, those whose vehicles incurred this type of damage had it happen frequently with an average of three times in the last five years."

To minimize vehicle damage, drivers should make sure tires are properly inflated and have adequate tread depth. If a pothole strike is inevitable, drivers should slow down, release the brakes and straighten steering before making contact with the pothole. To avoid potholes in the roadway, drivers should remain alert, scan the road, and increase following distances behind the vehicle ahead.

AAA's members are paying a steep price for bad road conditions, and those costs are expected to rise even higher in the years ahead. Congress increased transportation funding in 2015 to help pay for road repair, but as much as $170 billion in additional funding is needed per year to significantly improve America's roads and bridges, according to the survey.

Every year, AAA responds to more than 4 million calls for flat tire assistance, many the result of damage caused by potholes. Spare tires, an important feature missing from one-third of 2015 model year vehicles sold, are critical for drivers affected by pothole damage. Tire inflator kits have replaced the spare tire in millions of vehicles over the last 10 model years and, due to their limited functionality, can't provide even a temporary fix for pothole damage. AAA has called on automakers to put consumer interests first and halt the elimination of spare tires in new models.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet