JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – They’re the hidden perils of driving on South Africa’s roads – provincial and municipal – during and after the rainstorms for which the nation is known. Potholes – some big and deep enough to house a shoal of fish – are lurking.
Forget cursing the municipal workers – it ain’t do no good – and focus on avoiding the perennial problems of poor maintenance brought about by cash-strapped, sloppy, useless, civic departments and their staff. Just adjust your driving style, especially if you’re driving a small-wheeled family can and not a rugged 4×4 with wheels the size of flying saucers.
Road potholes are caused by hydraulic pressure: inadequate sealing allows water to seep beneath the road surface and every time a vehicle – particularly a multi-axle heavy truck – passes over immense pressure forces the water back up and against the underneath of the road surface.
THE BEST DEFENCE…
Fractures follow. Passing wheels crumble the now unsupported road surface, holes appear, more water collects, and the routine is repeated until what started as a crack is now a small cavern waiting to destroy your tyres and perhaps even wheel rims. The resulting blowout can be fatal, as can suddenly swerving to avoid the hazard.
Eugene Herbert, the amiable MD of MasterDrive, told The Corner the best defence is now technology.
“Phone apps such as Waze can warn of potholes,” he says ”Do your part and record potholes on the app to warn other drivers (NOT while you’re driving!).” But there are other suggestions…
…IS BEING ALERT AND WATCHFUL
Look ahead and watch for other vehicles bouncing across a hole and splashing water sideways, even swerving. Or slow down to have extra time to spot the hazards. ”Even if you suddenly spot a pothole,” Herbert says, ”going slower means more time to react.”
A large pothole can easily hide a killer pothole – again, the key is to decelerate – and if you know the road is potholed then take another route. A few extra litres of petrol is a helluva lot cheaper than a new rim and tyre.
If you are forced to drive over a damaged road do so slowly and carefully – and if a deep pothole is blocking your path don’t drive through – wait until you can drive through safely. Better still, turn around…
AND WHAT TO DO, IF YOU DO
If you do hit a pothole, Herbert says, make these checks… are any tyres flat orbulging like a boil, is a rim dented, is the car pulling to one side thanks to damaged alignment, is the exhaust damaged.
Potholes are a menace wherever you drive – take care, be alert, slow down.