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Editorial: Pesky pothole problems

No, you haven't been imagining it. There are more potholes on our roadways, and hitting them is taking a toll on motorists everywhere.

We are just coming off a harsh winter, and harsh winter weather tends to do a number on roads. Hitting potholes is more than just a bone-jarring inconvenience, though, as they take a heavy toll on autos.

In a press release this week, AAA Mid-Atlantic noted, "Flattened tires and fed-up motorists underscore how pervasive the problem is. Since January, AAA Mid-Atlantic roadside rescue crews have responded to nearly 120,000 service calls for flat tires throughout its service area, an increase of 22 percent year over year."

Last year the agency saw 98,635 calls over the same four-month period beginning the year.

"Hitting even one especially severe pothole could alter the alignment of a wheel and cause uneven tire wear," Ragina Cooper-Averella, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a press release. "Uneven tire wear means the tire will need to be replaced sooner than necessary, causing a needless expense. A broken shock or strut from a pothole could alter the steering and handling of a vehicle, and create dangers when driving at higher speeds or in tight corners. Broken suspension components should be repaired immediately."

Some tips, according to the agency: Keep an eye on traffic patterns. Cars that slow down or move quickly to other lanes may be a sign of major potholes or road damage ahead; beware of water that may be concealing a deep pothole; avoid swerving. Swerving can cause a loss of vehicle control; slow down. Carefully avoid sharp impact with potholes, and roll through. Rolling through the pothole is better than braking rapidly.

Most importantly, though, report major potholes or road damage to your state or local transportation department.

The good news in the AAA press release is that April's calls for service increased only 4 percent over the previous year. That seems to indicate that crews out fixing the potholes are getting caught up with the damage brought by winter. Until they finish, though, make sure you exercise a little extra caution and, when you encounter a pothole, make sure you report it so crews can patch it.

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