Street damage

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Deep outbreaks and network cracks in a pavement
Eruption and poor drainage of a roadway
Additional sign 1007-34 of the road traffic regulations: "Road damage"

A pothole marks the defective condition of a road pavement . Only damage is considered that is on the road, but not on the road equipment in the side rooms.

The causes of road damage are diverse and range from poor construction to excessive use and harmful environmental influences. Depending on the severity of the damage, different road repair measures are necessary. Examples are seam rehabilitation and surface treatment .

In Germany there is an official status record and assessment of roads.

State features

When looking at road damage, a distinction can be made between several status characteristics:

Emaciation and loss of chippings

In the event of emaciation, mortar or bituminous binder is lost from the road surface. The consequence of the emaciation is the loss of chippings, i.e. the loosening of aggregate near the surface due to a lack of binding agent. The cause of this damage can be a poor bond between the aggregate and the binding agent, for example a faulty mix composition. However, it is also possible that the asphalt was not properly compacted with rollers when paving .

On pure gravel roads, the negative pressure under fast-moving vehicles sucks dust, binding agents and fine sand particles from the surface, which leads to dust clouds behind the vehicle (see also macadam ). If rainwater collects in a pothole, fine components splash away when a vehicle drives through. Percolating water transports these fine components into deeper pores and seepage water accumulates, the pothole remains filled with water. If the pothole is subsequently filled with fresh gravel without making the subsoil more permeable, the seepage water continues to accumulate, material is also removed by spraying away and a new pothole is created in the same place as the "old" filled pothole.

Binder enrichment

In the case of binder enrichment (also called over-greasing), bituminous binder is deposited on the road surface due to the traffic load. This happens when the final mix has too high a binder content and / or too low a void content.


Breakouts (colloquially also called potholes ) are consequential damage to frost breakouts ( bubble-like bulges or crevices) in which the edges have broken away. Over the course of a few days to weeks, the defect widens and deepens, which can lead to frost damage to an extent of about 1 meter in size or 20 cm in depth. The frequent alternation of frost and thaw periods can result in outbreaks of up to ankle deep in roadways in just a few weeks .
Frost outbreaks occur when water can penetrate through the defective surface of a road surface and when it freezes the cracks in the ice enlarge these cracks. Water can also enter from the side or from below, but this is avoided on an intact road by the frost-protecting gravel in the superstructure.
These breaks are particularly frequent on secondary lines, when the road damage of the past few years has only been partially repaired, or on driveways and water-bound ceilings .


The bulge is a bead-like elevation of the road surface in the area of ​​the taxiway edges. This damage only occurs with asphalt pavements and is often a side effect of ruts and cracks. The required longitudinal and v. a. Road surface evenness is lost.

  • Chipping occurs in particular on concrete roads. There, due to poor concrete processing and reinforcement corrosion, flaking occurs.
  • Cracks in the road surface can have many causes. A distinction must be made between individual cracks and network cracks. Individual cracks occur when the building material tires or cracks below break through upwards (so-called reflection cracks). Network cracks usually arise due to excessive traffic and insufficient layer thickness as well as poor load-bearing capacity of the superstructure and substructure.
  • Open seams are created if mistakes were made in the installation of rolled asphalt or if the joints were poorly executed.
  • The occurrence of poor grip on road surfaces is related to the polishing of the aggregate or an excessively greasy asphalt surface layer.
  • Unevenness and deformations are caused by insufficiently dimensioned road pavements and a poor layer bond.
  • A lack of water drainage occurs when the drainage systems of the road do not work or work only inadequately and surface water therefore remains on the roadway.
  • Inadequate road markings occur when parts of the road markings become detached or break off and their effectiveness is lost.

Consequences for the flowing traffic

Missing pavement on one side of the street

The consequences of road damage primarily have a negative effect on the building fabric of the road and thus on its service life. Nevertheless, there is also damage that can affect and endanger the flow of traffic. When the wheel of a vehicle drives over or into the pothole, it springs out and abruptly on the opposite edge again, which is where the name comes from. Driving quickly over a deep pothole can cause considerable damage to a vehicle and also accidents , especially when cornering.

The most common damage occurs to the tires , the chassis and the steering . The latter damage is less common if the shock absorbers are working properly.

Although it is common in industrialized nations that the road maintainer has to fix any road damage as soon as possible, the drivers of vehicles are also obliged to adapt their driving style to the road conditions. If potholes or other obstacles are to be expected or if traffic signs indicate this possibility, the speed must be reduced so that one can "still react in time" even to potholes that are difficult to recognize

"Driving on sight" and maintaining the safety distance mean not only the usual foresight because of other road users , but also their possible reaction to surprising obstacles. With the necessary attention , damage to the vehicle and accidents can usually be avoided.

Legal and administrative aspects (Germany)

The building contractor of a road has the task of repairing road damage in a short time within the framework of the traffic safety obligation. In this context, the ADAC criticizes that the clumsiness and hostility to innovation of some of those responsible in the responsible authorities lead to the use of modern and economical road rehabilitation methods ( milling off the damaged road surface, adding wax-oil additives or polymeric binders to the asphalt and reapplying Road surface, etc.) is insufficiently used. Due to the tight budgets of the municipalities and the high costs of repair work, often only small repair work is carried out, the frequent requirement of which in most cases leads to completely uneconomical road maintenance. In some cases, the patchwork-like repairs can increase the risk of accidents in bends and in wet conditions , especially for two-wheelers .

The extent to which the road maintainer is liable for accidents or damage that has occurred cannot generally be said, but depends on the more detailed circumstances and the driver's obligations that may result from them. The road maintainer is only liable for accidents caused by road damage in the event of gross negligence or willful misconduct - for example, if he knew of the danger but did nothing to prevent it. If he receives a toll for using the road (e.g. also as a motorway vignette), the road maintainer is liable for slight negligence if he cannot prove that he is not at fault for the accident or damage.

A court ruling in Westphalia in 2003 stated that the roadway only had to be aligned with the requirements for which it was intended. As a result, the municipality was acquitted of alleged guilt in an accident that a pedestrian suffered when she fell over a pothole while walking to her car parked across the street at night. The municipality must ensure that the roads are safe for their users, but only ensure that the sidewalks are safe for pedestrians .

In order to clarify the question of liability, road users should document the damage to the car and the condition of the road at the scene of the accident. Photos, testimony from other road users and calling the police can be helpful. In the event of a pothole accident , damage to the vehicle is covered by fully comprehensive insurance .

See also

Web links

Commons : Road damage  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Pothole season: Obligations of road maintainers and drivers  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ( ÖAMTC 2006)@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  2. ^ A b Claus Christoph Eicher: Potholes: Rumpel Republic of Germany. In: ADAC Motorwelt ISSN  0007-2842 (2nd episode), volume 64, issue 3, March 2011, pp. 20-26
  4. OLG Hamm - judgment of May 25, 2004 - Az. 9 U 208/03
  5. What to do if the car is damaged by a pothole? ( Memento of the original from March 11, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  6. What to do if the car is damaged by a pothole? ( Memento of the original from March 11, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /