Pothole advice creates sinking feeling

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I KNOW I speak for many Winnipeggers when I express gratitude to Manitoba Public Insurance for its oft-repeated advice: “Drive to road conditions.” Never would we have thought of that on our own.

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Opinion

I KNOW I speak for many Winnipeggers when I express gratitude to Manitoba Public Insurance for its oft-repeated advice: “Drive to road conditions.” Never would we have thought of that on our own.

The current condition of Winnipeg roads has been compared to roads found in a war zone that was recently shelled. Some people say that’s an understatement.

As we dodge potholes, gaping crevices and crumbling pavement, Winnipeg drivers are forced to weave back and forth, sometimes drifting out of our lanes. Makes it hard to tell whether zigzagging motorists are driving to road conditions, or are intoxicated.

Thank goodness we have the driving experts at MPI to edify us. In search of more detailed wisdom, I checked MPI’s website and found further gems of enlightment about potholes. I decided to go for a drive and follow MPI’s specific advice.

MPI tip: Scan 10 to 12 seconds down the road in front of you, looking for potholes.

I headed south on Route 90, travelling on St. James Street at about 50 km/h. The MPI website said to scan about 10 seconds ahead, but how are drivers supposed to know how far that is? I calculated the distance on my iPhone (Note to police who read this and are inclined to send me a ticket for distracted driving: I pulled into a parking lot before using my phone.)

Calculations show that at 50 km/h, vehicles travel about 140 metres in 10 seconds. Now that’s a distance we can all understand. It’s about the length of a Canadian football field.

I eased back into the traffic on St. James, determined to scan for potholes that are as far away as the length of a football field. Impossible. No way. I couldn’t see potholes that far ahead because several vehicles were driving in the 140 metres ahead of my car.

I tried slowing to 30 km/h, hoping to lengthen the distance to the vehicle ahead of me, but another vehicle passed me and settled into the empty space I was trying to create. This happened repeatedly. Apparently, other drivers don’t respect MPI advice as much as I do.

MPI tip: Slow down as much as possible before the pothole.

I tried. Scout’s honour, I tried. Spotted a crater in the road ahead – it seemed large enough to swallow a couch cushion — so I slowed, much to the dismay of the tailgaters behind me. One honked. One passed me and offered a stink eye and a middle-finger salute.

Forgive me for seeming heretical, but I was tempted to think the MPI honchos who compose the tips don’t drive in the same traffic as the rest of us. Perhaps MPI executives work from home so they can avoid Winnipeg’s roads.

MPI tip: Accumulated water can hide potholes, so be sure to approach all puddles with the same caution as you would a pothole.

Winnipeg streets have so many puddles during the spring melt that, if we followed MPI’s advice to slow for every puddle the way we should slow for potholes, our vehicles would be passed by pedestrians.

Perhaps MPI means we should only slow for puddles that are dangerously deep. Problem is, unless we stop our vehicle and get out to measure the depth of each puddle with a ruler we keep in the glove box, there’s no way to tell if the upcoming puddle is shallow or whether it’s a canyon deep enough to bend our wheel rims.

Finally, after 45 minutes, I finished this test drive of MPI tips. Here was the final pothole tally: I hit three, one of them so deep that it jarred me. The big one felt as if I had run over a curb. I think it messed up my vehicle’s alignment and possibly damaged a shock or strut.

My next trip will be to my local garage to assess the damage and then to the MPI claim centre to assess who will pay for the damage and whether I will be on the hook for a deductible and demerit points.

As I understand the process, the MPI adjuster will evaluate my claim and determine whether I took appropriate defensive action. How can the adjuster judge whether I took appropriate action when they weren’t in the vehicle with me and are likely unacquainted with the specific pothole that damaged my vehicle?

I guess they’re just gifted that way. Just another reason why Winnipeggers are so fortunate to have MPI to advise us to drive to road conditions, and to punish us when they determine, in ways beyond our understanding, that we’re the ones at fault.

carl.degurse@freepress.mb.ca

Carl DeGurse is a member of the Free Press editorial board.

Carl DeGurse

Carl DeGurse
Senior copy editor

Carl DeGurse’s role at the Free Press is a matter of opinion. A lot of opinions.

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