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Basic Causes of Potholes on Roads and Their Top 10 Control Measures

Causes of Potholes on the roads and how to stop it

Why you should know the Causes of Potholes on Roads and Their Control Measures

Potholes had been a major problem for road users across the globe. It is such a serious issue that several organizations and some countries do drop the data of what potholes cost them annually.

Pothole Road Kazakhstan Hole Asphalt Repai

For an instant, the American Automobile Association had estimated that about 16 million drivers had suffered damage from potholes in the last five years before the year 2016 within the United States.

Britain made their estimation of the cost of fixing the potholes on all their roads to amount up to 12 billion pounds annually. While India had a record of over 3000 deaths in road accidents caused by potholes on their roads annually.

Still counting, Nigeria had the same problem as lots of varying figures were being released by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), on the major accidents that occur on the roads annually and some of these accidents can be attributed to potholes on the roads as their causing factor.

Having said all that, it can be assumed that every country across the globe has something to say in regard to the effects of potholes on them.

Potholes are a silent economic killer, both to the country and to those using the roads, the American Automobile Association also estimated the annual cost of accidents caused by potholes to be about 3 billion USD each year that cost is coming from the damaged vehicles from the accidents, punctured tires, bent wheels, and damaged car suspensions.

The above data proved that potholes have become a global issue that needs to be addressed.


That is a good question one should be asking, so let us try and look deep into the actual causes of potholes on the roads.

By definition “a pothole is a defect created on the road surface as a result of the primary failure in the asphalt pavement used in the road making, which leads to the structural failure of the road surface.

The asphalt pavement failure occurs due to the presence of water in the underlying soil structure and the presence of traffic passing over the affected area on the road.

The water in the underlying soil structure can come from floods, underground erosions, or cracks from the road surface”

Having explained what pothole is and its causing factor. It is time we also explain in detail the Causes of Potholes on Roads.

The introduction of water to the soil structure below the road surface weakens the soil and makes it lose or reduce its support on compressive forces.

Therefore, the asphalt pavement used in making the road surface will suffer the effect of the weakened soil that lays beneath it, such that when heavy vehicles or serious traffic impact a heavy force on any location of the weakened parts of the road surface.

This will create a depressed surface on that portion of the road, which is what we refer to as the pothole or potholes.  

In the actual sense, it can be said that potholes occur when the road surface has started losing support in some locations because the supporting soil beneath it had been weakened.

Asphalt Crack Background Line Road Street



Just as I said in the first and second paragraphs, lots of statistics had been released on what potholes had caused in the past and are still causing to date.

The effects to the road users are enormous ranging from severe motor accidents to minor accidents, death, injuries, loss of properties, economic loss and emotional trauma, etc. these and more are the hilarious things potholes can make the road users go through.

The effect of potholes can vary from country to country depending on the criteria and attention given to it.

Whichever way be the case, any country that tries to be economical when it comes to road construction may end up having higher data on potholes and the effects that go with it.


The answer to the causes of potholes on roads could be ambiguous if the question is not properly configured.

The question of preventing potholes seems out of it because one cannot say that it is possible to completely eliminate the possibility of potholes appearing on any road forever because it will, it is just a matter of time.

Rather we should be talking about how to control it so that its appearance on the roads can be minimal.

Research shows that various roads constructed in Nigeria do have some number of potholes, the appearance of the potholes and their number depends on the age of the road and its usability not actually that they were made of substandard materials.

However, some of the newly constructed roads have been found to have more potholes than those built ten years back and above.

So, I dropped my reason that; it could be that the old roads were stronger because proper construction procedures and standard materials were used during their construction.

So how then do we control potholes? The control of potholes should be in the mind of every firm undergoing construction projects.

A good civil engineering firm that specializes in road construction has ways of dealing with issues of potholes during their road construction.

The control/preventive procedures firms usually follow against the causes of potholes on roads include the following:

  1. Using soil compacting machines to compact the soil from its surface after wetting it severally with water.
  2. Giving the compacted soil time for its structures to be properly set, by allowing pedestrians and motorists to walk on it for some time, with that the soil becomes even stronger.
  3. A good season is being selected for the road construction and that is the dry season, this is to avoid water interference on the road quality in the whole process.
  4. The asphalt pavement used on the road surface is usually made to be of a high thickness and of good quality such that it offers little or no permeability for water to pass through the surface to the soil below it.
  5. The roads were usually constructed in the concave pattern, a pattern that allows the center of the road to be higher than the two ends of the roadsides. The reason for this design is to allow water that dropped on any part of the road to run out of the road surface quickly to any of the sides due to the slope that exists between each side and the center of the road because the longer it stays, the more chance of going deep into the asphalt pavement to create a chance for pothole occurrence.
  6. Drainage structures are usually added to the sides of the road to convey the water falling on the road surface away.
  7. Creating unnecessary cuts on the road surface after its construction is a fast way of causing potholes to exist on that road so such a firm will always avoid it.
  8. Another general consideration is that roads should be inspected always for any possibility of potholes.
  9. Any pothole left unpatched is an avenue for another pothole to exist, hence; potholes should be patched regularly.
  10. The government or any client awarding the road construction contract should be more concerned about the quality and the durability of the road instead of its initial cost, because “the money not used to construct quality road will be used to maintain it as a substandard road.”


Having dropped above, the basic causes of potholes on roads and their control measures. We strongly believe that if they are properly implemented there would be few potholes on our roads, which will be of great help to everyone. Please use the comment section to give us your feedback regarding this topic.

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