ERS Driver Safety Series: Unique Challenges on South African Roads – Potholes


In our first instalment of our Driver Safety Series for South African drivers,

we are going to explore probably the biggest irritation and physical danger on our roads: Potholes. In this blog article we will provide you with excellent tips and advice on how to avoid or minimise damage to your vehicle due to potholes (we know, it’s practically impossible to always avoid them, but this will help!), what to do next if you have incurred damage, and what your legal options are.

South Africans are well known for their unique sense of humour. Nothing escapes becoming a joke or a funny story in our country. We believe it is mostly a psychological way to deal with the various challenges we need to face daily.

We are more than familiar with the state of many of our roads, especially in suburban areas and even more so in small towns where little or no maintenance is done.

This can cause major damage to your vehicle should you hit one of these potholes unexpectedly. It’s an even bigger problem during the rainy season, when it is almost impossible to spot a pothole filled with water.

It can also be the cause of a serious accident if one motorist tries to avoid a pothole and in doing so enters the oncoming lane of traffic.

How can you avoid damage to your vehicle due to potholes?

  • Don’t drive through puddles.
  • Stay alert on unfamiliar roads.
  • Keep a safe distance between vehicles. This way you have enough time to react should the vehicle in front take evasive action to avoid a pothole, or you can be alerted when they hit a pothole.
  • Keep up on car maintenance.
  • Drive slower in the dark and rainy weather.

Hitting a pothole can cause a variety of tire issues, from blowouts to poor alignment, both of which compromise your vehicle and can make it dangerous to drive. If you accidentally smack a pothole, get out and examine your tire(s).

Check for damage, which can be any of the following:

  • Loss of tire pressure.
  • Noticeable dents in your wheel rims.
  • Vibrations in the steering wheel.
  • Steering wheel pulling to one side

But what to do if you cannot avoid the pothole and are forced to drive through it?

The natural inclination is to swerve, but if that is not an option try to slow down as much as possible before hitting the pothole. You must release the brakes before the impact to minimise damage to the tires and the suspension components. If the wheel is locked by the brakes as it strikes the opposite edge of a pothole it is much more likely to burst the tire, bend the wheel rim, or bend the suspension links.

How do you deal with the damage to your vehicle after hitting a pothole?

This is an insured incident, and you can claim from your insurer for the incurred damage.

What happens if you are uninsured/not insured?

You can try to claim from the responsible municipal or regional government for your expenses to repair your car. The sad reality, however, is that many municipalities are not in the financial position to remunerate you for this damage.

To ensure that you can prove your claim, you need to provide the following information:

  • A photo of the pothole.
  • A photo or GPS co-ordinate to pinpoint exactly where the pothole is/was (it might have been filled by the time you institute your claim).
  • A quotation of the damage caused to your vehicle.
  • Other requirements as per the specific entity you are dealing with.

To assist you with this process, you can also visit for help to act on your behalf to claim the money/damage from the responsible entity.

What is the legal implication if you swerved to avoid a pothole and then collide with another vehicle?

The Motor Law states that a motorist cannot avoid one accident and cause another. Therefore, the outcome of such a claim will not be a clear-cut situation. This is easier said than done, as anybody facing that situation needs to decide in a millisecond what evasive action to take.

As citizens of this beautiful country of ours, what do we do about the pothole situation?

Be aware that anybody working on a public road must first acquire wayleave from the metro, otherwise they might be in contravention of the by-laws of the metro. If further damage or injury occurs due to somebody fixing a pothole themselves, that person might be held liable for the consequential damage or injury.

Despite this, many fed-up South Africans have taken it upon themselves to fix potholes. Every pothole fixed is one less of the estimated 25 million around the country!

We trust that the above will provide you with the help and guidance you need if you find yourself in a “pothole situation”, and do keep an eye on our socials for our next instalment in the series of driver safety tips for South Africans.

If it was not your fault, Excel Recovery Services and Phetolo ERS can assist to turn negative impacts into positive outcomes. Help is only a click away:

We’ve got your back!

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