It's as certain as death and taxes. After heavy rains, Oahu's roadways become pockmarked with potholes as water tears into the hot asphalt mix from earlier repairs.
At Lex Brodie's Tire, Brake and Service Co. on Queen Street, Vice President of Operations John Kelly is used to hearing from frustrated drivers whose cars have been damaged by unexpected jolts on city or state highways.
"People will impact the tire, and it's like a big, gigantic blister on the tire," said Kelly. "In a lot of cases, people have to get new rims."
Whether it's tire damage or steering alignments that get thrown out of whack, drivers who hit potholes may not have to pay for repairs on their own. Both the state and the city accept vehicle damage claims if it can be shown the financial loss was caused by the road, not the driver.
"We have told people in the past about (the claim process)," said Kelly. ""Usually, people are pretty thankful when you give them that information."
In the past three years, the state has paid more than $320,000 in vehicle damage claims, although amounts have steadily decreased. In 2009, claims totaled $126,518; in 2010, claims fell to $97,230. Last year, claims dropped once more to $86,937.
Drivers whose vehicles suffer pothole damage must complete a "claim for damage or injury" form with the state Department of Accounting and General Services within two years of the incident. The form can be downloaded by going to the State of Hawaii Forms Central website.
Drivers who incur damage to their vehicles are encouraged to provide as much detail as possible, including two estimates or repair bills.
"In the past, we've told people to just go back where the pothole was and take pictures of it," said Kelly.
According to records provided by DAGS, drivers can expect to wait several months before receiving a check from the state. One claim filed in December 2009 wasn't paid out until September of the following year.
CITY PAYOUTS NOT AS COSTLY
Vehicle damage payouts by the city and county of Honolulu in the past three fiscal years are substantially less than those paid by the state, totaling $20,440 from July 2008 until the end of June of last year. Drivers should call the city's Department of the Corporation Counsel at (808) 768-5193 to request a form. Like the state, the form asks for as much detail as possible, including damage estimates.
CITY IMPROVES ON POTHOLE REPORTING
An audit in June 2005 showed the city's pothole hotline was inefficient and relied on antiquated technology. The auditor's report stated the city was not meeting its goal of filling potholes within two business days. However, since the report was issued, the Department of Facility Maintenance has made several changes, including the creation of a website to make it easier to report potholes.
"We've noticed that about half the number of people that report in potholes go through the Internet web site," said DFM Director Westley Chun.
The city also expects to place pothole reporting on its new Honolulu 311 smart phone application toward the end of the year.
"They can go ahead and take a photograph of the pothole, and with the GPS location of the phone, we'll identify that location," said Chun.
The city is also in the process of launching new computer software that will allow better tracking of road conditions throughout Oahu. A system known as Stereo Panoramic Imaging will replace onsite inspections that have traditionally been performed by road crews.
Another software system developed by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, known as the MicroPAVER, will allow DFM to gauge the Pavement Condition Index, or PCI, of city roads.
Roads with a PCI of 85 to 100 are considered to be in "very good" or "excellent" shape. Those with a PCI of 70 are rated "good," while those that receive 40 points or fewer are considered "poor" to "very poor."
To file a vehicle damage claim with the state, visit http://hawaii.gov/forms/department-of-accounting-and-general-services/rmtc/view.
To file a vehicle damage claim with the city and county of Honolulu, call the Department of the Corporation Counsel at (808) 768-5193.
State Pothole Hotline: 808-536-7852
City and County of Honolulu Pothole Hotline: (808) 768-7777