Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Swerving to avoid potholes a bad idea

Expert advice for driving on Winnipeg's broken streets

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You're going to hit a pothole. The only variables are when and how hard.

So what is a conscientious driver, who loves an intact front suspension, to do?

With Winnipeg in the midst of the freeze-thaw cycle, city officials say many more potholes are expected to emerge. The city has had about 460 pothole complaints so far this calendar year.

"It's a nightmare," said driving instructor Richard Mutungi, the owner of Winncity Driving School. "Just today, I was on Pembina Highway teaching somebody, there are potholes in three lanes. I had to tell somebody, 'Slow down. You can't weave side to side because there might be a vehicle on the left lane or the right lane.' The best thing is to slow down. The golden rule of driving is you drive the speed to the condition of the road."

Mutungi said changing lanes to try to avoid a pothole is not recommended because other vehicles may be there.

"That's what is causing accidents. Suddenly, somebody sees a pothole, instead of braking to slow down and check (if the next lane is clear), they swing to one side and there's a vehicle there," Mutungi said, noting drivers usually need to drive through the pothole because there's nowhere else to safely go.

"Just apply the brakes as much as you can to reduce the impact of the pothole on your vehicle and try to stay steady. If you slow down, the impact of the damage is less."

Miguel Del Monte, manager of the Speedy Automotive Centre on McPhillips Street, said his customers are bringing in vehicles with front-end damage from potholes.

"A lot of ball joints, struts, wheel bearings, springs breaking because of the potholes when you hit them hard," he said. "The most common problems are with the front ends because when you hit these things, even when you avoid one or two, you're going to end up hitting the third one. There's nothing you can do about it and sometimes accidents happen too, when you try to avoid the potholes."

A Manitoba Public Insurance spokesman said MPI opens about 1,000 pothole claims per year, most of which are received in the spring. Customers pay the deductible and MPI pays the rest of the costs of repairing the vehicle.

Harold Tabin, who owns A Confidence Driving School, said drivers can minimize problems by staying in their own lanes. "Just slow down and go through (the pothole) because swerving just means you're going to create another problem altogether," said Tabin. "I'm on the road all day, so there seems to be a lot more. I've seen some huge craters. It wouldn't surprise me if we discover later on that we're going to have some sinkholes."

Tabin said one car in his fleet, a 2005 Toyota Camry, has already had its front-end suspension replaced.

Terry Omelan, owner of the Graduate Driving School, said the potholes are the worst that he's seen in the 13 years he's owned his business.

"I think the city is probably overwhelmed, trying to catch up with them," Omelan said. "If you are on a road that has one, there's probably more up the road."

Jim Berezowsky, the City of Winnipeg's street maintenance manager, told the Free Press this week this pothole season is expected to last well into the spring and that "this will be one of the worst springs."


-- with files from Bartley Kives

How do you cope with driving during pothole season? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2014 0

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