Hitting a pothole while driving can cause damage to your vehicle and be jarring or even dangerous for passengers. So when you see a pothole ahead, a natural instinct may be to swerve to avoid it. But is swerving to avoid potholes a good idea? There are pros and cons to consider.
Should you swerve to avoid potholes?
It depends. Swerving can help you avoid pothole damage, but sudden swerving can also be dangerous if it surprises other drivers or makes you lose control. Some key considerations:
– Assess the size of the pothole. Smaller ones may not require swerving.
– Check surrounding traffic. Make sure you have room to swerve safely.
– Slow down first. Brake gently while assessing if you can swerve.
– Keep control of the wheel. Avoid sudden jerking motions.
– Signal if changing lanes. Stay predictable to other drivers.
– Watch for other hazards. Don’t swerve from one danger into another.
– When in doubt, drive over slowly. A gentle tire impact is safer than swerving.
What damage can potholes cause?
Potholes can cause a variety of damage to your vehicle, especially at higher speeds:
– Tire punctures or blowouts from sharp pothole edges
– Wheel damage like bends, cracks, or scrapes
– Damage to wheel rims and spokes
– Vehicle alignment issues leading to uneven tire wear
– Loosened chassis parts requiring alignment or replacement
– Shock absorber and strut damage from the impact
– Suspension damage
– Steering system damage
The costs to repair pothole damage can be expensive, from a few hundred dollars for wheel or tire repairs up to a few thousand for extensive suspension work. There’s also the safety risk of a tire blowout or other failure from pothole damage.
How can potholes affect passengers?
Beyond damage to the vehicle itself, potholes can also jolt and potentially injure passengers:
– Causing neck, back or spinal injuries from abrupt jolts
– Bumping heads on the ceiling from excessive jouncing
– Motion sickness or nausea from rough rides
– Contusions or bruises from falling into the car door or interior
– Driver distraction or loss of control from hitting potholes
So pothole impacts can be rough on passengers too. Swerving to avoid the jolt of potholes can help provide a smoother, safer ride.
When is it advisable to swerve potholes?
Here are some situations when swerving can be a wise driving decision to avoid pothole impacts:
You spot a large, deep pothole ahead
Shallow potholes with mild edges can be driven over slowly with minimal damage. But large, deep potholes with jagged edges can cause extensive damage and loss of control. In those cases, swerving can prevent a more hazardous impact.
You’re driving at higher speeds
The faster you’re driving, the more violent and hazardous pothole impacts become. They can be dangerous to tires and wheels. Swerving avoids the jarring blow.
You’re carrying fragile cargo
For vehicles carrying fragile loads like electronics, glassware, machinery, etc., the jolts of pothole impacts can cause damage. It’s advisable to swerve to provide a smoother ride.
Passengers have medical conditions
For passengers with back injuries or other medical conditions, pothole jolts can be painful or dangerous. Swerving avoids further injury.
You’re towing a trailer
Trailers can fishtail or sway perilously when hitting potholes. It’s smart to swerve to maintain control and balance.
Risks of swerving to avoid potholes
While swerving potholes can avoid damage and injury, it carries some inherent risks:
Surprising other drivers
Sudden, unexpected swerving can surprise nearby motorists who may have to brake or swerve themselves to avoid you. This raises the likelihood of an accident.
Veering into other lanes
Swerving can lead you into other lanes unexpectedly, potentially hitting other vehicles or running off the roadway.
Losing vehicle control
Sharp, rapid swerves especially at higher speeds can result in skidding or fishtailing leading to spinouts or rollovers.
Difficulty steering out of the swerve
Overcompensation while swerving can make it hard to straighten out again, leading to an uncontrolled zigzag.
Jackknifing with trailers
Trailers can jackknife if swerving is too abrupt when towing.
How to swerve potholes safely
If you need to swerve a pothole, here are some tips for doing it safely:
Slow down first
Lightly brake while scanning ahead and assessing if you have room to swerve safely. Swerving at slower speeds is more controlled.
Check surrounding traffic
Glance in your mirrors and blind spots to make sure there is no traffic in the lane you need to swerve into.
Avoid sudden movements
Use smooth, gradual motions of the steering wheel to swerve gently. Don’t make sharp jerks.
Countersteer to straighten
As soon as you’re safely past the pothole, gently countersteer in the opposite direction to straighten out.
Stay smooth with the wheel to avoid harsh oversteering that can cause you to overcorrect. Gentle inputs.
Use turn signals
Activate turn signals before and after swerving to communicate your moves to other drivers.
Watch for additional hazards
When swerving, don’t steer into the path of other dangers like oncoming traffic, pedestrians, obstacles, etc.
Keep both hands on the wheel
For maximum vehicle control, grip the steering wheel firmly with both hands when swerving.
When is it best to slowly drive over potholes?
In some cases, it may be safer to slowly roll over a pothole rather than make an emergency swerving maneuver:
When traffic is heavy all around you
If there are close vehicles in every direction, swerving may not be possible. Slowly driving over the pothole may be best.
When the pothole is relatively minor
For shallow, mild potholes, slowly rolling through them avoids risking a more hazardous swerve.
If your vehicle has rugged tires/wheels
Trucks, jeeps, and SUVs built for off-roading can often gently absorb small potholes without damage.
When swerving would risk greater danger
If swerving would send you into oncoming lanes, rolling slowly over the pothole may be the wisest choice.
If you don’t have time to brake before swerving
If a pothole appears suddenly right in front of you, it may be safest to slowly roll through.
When swerving would risk losing control
If the road is wet, icy, or otherwise slick, slowly driving over a pothole may avoid a skid.
How to drive over potholes safely
If you can’t safely swerve and must drive over a pothole, here are some tips:
Scan far down the road to identify potholes early so you can adjust and prepare.
Slow your speed
Light braking when approaching a pothole reduces impact severity and damage risk.
Hold the wheel tightly
A firm grip helps control the wheel if it jerks from a pothole impact.
Straighten your wheels
Enter the pothole head-on rather than at an angle for a gentler impact.
Loosen your body
Keep knees bent and don’t tense your body so you absorb shock better.
Brace your passengers
Warn passengers to hold on tightly for the bump. Check kids are buckled securely.
How vehicle type affects pothole avoidance
Vehicle size, weight, tire type, and other factors change how you should address potholes:
Smaller cars are most vulnerable to pothole damage, so swerving is often wise, conditions permitting. Their low ground clearance also means slowing more for unswervable potholes.
Their ruggedness allows gentle driving over many potholes. But their height means swerving remains important for deep potholes to avoid vehicle roll.
Their stiff suspensions resist pothole jolts better but their low ground clearance still necessitates slowing or swerving for deeper ones.
Their two wheels and lack of suspension require vigilant swerving from all but the mildest potholes to maintain control and avoid dangerous falls.
Heavy passenger loads, cargo, and towing requires earlier pothole avoidance since extra weight increases damage risks and makes swerving more challenging.
|Vehicle Type||Pothole Risk||Avoidance Needs|
|Passenger Car||High damage risk||More swerving recommended|
|Truck/SUV||Lower damage risk||Can drive over more|
|Sports Car||Medium risk||Assess depth, swerve deep ones|
|Motorcycle||Very high risk||Swerve all potholes|
|Loaded Vehicle||Increased risk||More caution needed|
How road conditions affect pothole avoidance
Road conditions can impact your ability to swerve or drive through potholes safely:
Provide maximum traction for effective braking, swerving, and control. Potholes are also more visible.
Reduce traction and increase chances of skidding from swerving or braking. Hydroplaning risk in deep puddles.
Requires slow gentle driving and avoidance of any sudden inputs. Need maximum caution near any potholes.
Potholes are harder to see at night. Slowing down improves reaction time and control.
Higher traffic volumes provide less room to swerve safely. More pothole impacts likely.
Increases pothole damage risks and makes swerving hazardous. Need to shed speed earlier.
Higher speeds permitted and fewer lane restrictions enable swerving when required.
Rougher unpaved surfaces make swerving risky. Slower speed and high ground clearance key.
|Road Condition||Pothole Risks|
|Dry Roads||Lower risk – Better traction and visibility|
|Wet Roads||Higher risk – Reduced traction|
|Snow/Ice||Highest risk – Poor traction|
|Nighttime||Elevated risk – Reduced visibility|
|High Traffic||Higher risk – Less room to maneuver|
|High Speed||Higher risk – Swerving hazards increase|
|Rural Roads||Lower risk – More room to swerve|
|Off-Road||Higher risk – Bumpy conditions|
Vehicle maintenance for pothole avoidance
Proper vehicle maintenance can reduce pothole damage risks and make your car easier to control when evading potholes:
Inflate tires properly
Correct tire pressures help cushion pothole impacts and prevent tire failures or flats. Check pressures monthly.
Inspect tire treads
Make sure tread depth is legal and adequate for the road surface. Bald tires skid more easily when swerving or braking.
Get wheel alignment
Proper alignment reduces uneven tire wear and helps steering stability during pothole maneuvers.
Check shocks and struts
Worn out dampers allow more pothole jolting and reduce handling for swerves or braking.
Tighten loose parts
Inspect undercarriage components and tighten any loose suspension, chassis or steering parts. This prevents further damage from pothole impacts.
Properly angled low beams help illuminate potholes at night for early evasion.
Confirm your brakes can stop the car adequately for controlled speed reduction before swerving.
How to avoid potholes in the future
Beyond dodging potholes in the moment, you can take measures to avoid them down the road:
Note pothole locations
Pay attention to problem areas and be extra alert when driving there again.
Choose routes strategically
Consult maps apps to select routes that minimize known pothole zones.
Adjust drive times
Drive pothole-prone roads during daylight if possible for better visibility.
Moderate speeds allow more reaction time to avoid potholes around every bend.
Increase following distance
Added space between you and the next vehicle provides flexibility to swerve if needed.
Drive vehicle appropriate for conditions
When road conditions are poor, take a more rugged vehicle with higher clearance.
Report bad potholes to authorities
Alerting road maintenance crews helps get severely damaged areas repaired.
Swerving potholes can prevent vehicle damage, passenger injuries, and hazardous impacts if done with proper care and awareness. But it also carries risks like surprising other motorists or loss of control. Assess each pothole quickly, and swerve only when safe conditions permit. For mild potholes or when swerving is too dangerous, slowing down and driving over cautiously is best. With alert defensive driving and proactive vehicle maintenance, you can mitigate risks from potholes effectively. Stay safe on the road by being prepared to either swerve or stop for these common highway hazards.