pothole South Africa
This is the pothole which killed the tire on my rental car. It is significantly deeper than it appears here. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Which Cities Have the Most Pothole Complaints in the United States and the United Kingdom?

They cause a hole lot of damage to vehicles.

The dreaded pothole is the bane of the motorist who hopes to simply get from point A to point B without an incident. It lurks, awaiting its next victim, hoping that it will not be paved over or repaired before causing hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars worth of damage to a vehicle.

Which Cities Have the Most Pothole Complaints in the United States and the United Kingdom?

The Twitter application programming interface was used to extract tweets from the United Kingdom and the United States — including the terms pothole and potholes — and the data was then extrapolated to calculate the number of tweets over the course of a year.

The Github and Overpass application programming interface to discover road length for every city and every region in the research. The number of complaints per 1,000 kilometers of road was then calculated. To calculate the data for counties in England, City of London and Greater London were merged.

The data was collected in August of 2021 and September of 2021.

I have been given express written permission to use the maps and the verbatim text from this article from The Clunker Junker, which highlights the cost to motorists of traffic during rush hour in 418 cities around the world. This information is general in nature only and does not constitute personal advice. While The Clunker Junker and Neomam Studios — which was commissioned to conduct research on behalf of The Clunker Junker — have endeavored to ensure the information provided is accurate and current, they cannot guarantee it. Neither The Clunker Junker nor The Gate accept liability for the information which is presented in this article.

The Most Pothole Complaints in the United States and the United Kingdom

It’s a war of attrition. Every time your car survives a run-in with a pothole, it takes a little more damage.

You might not notice at first. Your tires weaken with every thud. Your suspension arms and levers twist and bend. The rubber wears off, and you don’t even notice the sound getting clunkier and clunkier.

But sometimes it’s quicker. The asphalt rips through your tire or smashes your wheel out of shape. Even if you get it back on the road, it’s not the same as before.

It’s not your fault (although we’ll go into some ways you can minimize damage). Potholes happen when the asphalt cracks under the pressure of temperature changes, usually in winter and spring. Poor road workmanship doesn’t help. And worst of all are the authorities who leave potholes lying there, sprung like traps.

The best thing to do if you spot a pothole is to report it to your local city, county, or Department of Transportation. A quick web search shows you how. But of course, when people get angry these days, they usually report it to 330 million other users on Twitter. The Clunker Junker deduced that Twitter data is probably the best way to gauge which cities, US states, and English counties have the biggest problem. So we grabbed the data and made some maps and charts.

Key Findings

  • Rhode Island is the American state with the most pothole tweets per 1,000km of road: 23.4.
  • Atlanta, Georgia, is the US city with the most complaints, 529.1 per 1,000km.
  • Greater London is the English county with the most pothole-themed tweets, 176.7 per 1,000km.
  • Edinburgh is the UK city with the most pothole complaints on Twitter, 570.3 per 1,000km.

Rhode Island is America’s ‘Pothole State’

First, we figured out the number of pothole-themed tweets from every area in the US over the course of a year. Then we figured the total road length of every city and state. And then we crushed these figures together to get the number of Twitter pothole complaints per 1,000km of road in each area.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: The Clunker Junker.

“We used to call it ‘The Pothole State,’” tweets Rhode Islander Melanie Joy. Rhode Island is pothole state #1 by some leap, with 23.4 pothole tweets per 1,000km of road – beating out second-placed Hawaii (20.6).

“Riding a motorcycle in Hawaii is a mixture of absorbing breathtaking views and then nearly dying by driving into a pothole big enough to be a bomb crater,” tweets Joe Kassabian.

Idaho is the smooth drivin’ state, with local news and government sharing satisfying videos of potholes being filled. The tweet count for Idaho + potholes is significantly raised by drivers nowhere near Idaho using the phrase “Idaho-sized pothole” to describe far-flung road hazards.

Atlanta Tops the Charts

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: The Clunker Junker.

Atlanta, Georgia, is America’s pothole capital. The record books reveal 529.1 tweets per 1,000km of Atlanta road per year. Such a local character is the Atlanta pothole that it has not one but two Twitter accounts of its own – although, like Atlanta’s roads, they are both poorly maintained.

A ‘Greater’ Number of Pothole Complaints

Next, we did the same for UK roads. First up is a map of English counties, showing the number of pothole-themed tweets per 1,000km. Both Greater London and Greater Manchester top the charts as the counties with the most complaints per 1000km of road.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: The Clunker Junker.

The UK’s road quality is ranked only 37th in the world. You might have expected better from the country that gave us the Rolls Royce. But then, the UK also gave us the Land Rover, perhaps the definitive off-road car. Perhaps it was inspired by a drive around Greater London, England’s potholiest county – according to Twitter.

Here we have a chart showing the most- and least-tweeted-about pothole destinations across the whole of the UK.

Click on the graphic for an enlarged version. Source: The Clunker Junker.

Londoners tweet more than other citizens in general, so a special mention also goes to Greater Manchester. “Manchester roads by where I used to live were disgraceful,” tweets one ex-inhabitant, sharing pictures that are part patchwork asphalt, part archaeological dig into the county’s road history. Greater Manchester is also the scene of the first ‘painted phallus’ protests – the appearance of rude graffiti around potholes to prompt councils to cover them up.

But you need to go north of the border to find the city with the most pothole complaints. Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, gets the most Twitter ire with 570.3 groans per 1,000km of road. One road user told the local press, “I’ve travelled the length of this country and Edinburgh roads are the worst. Car hire companies tell you to take the extra insurance so you don’t have to pay for damage to tires and rims.”

Drive with Caution to Minimize Pothole Damage

Potholes are big news right now, with President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill on the table and, more seriously, the famous Seinfeld pothole cropped out of Netflix reruns (“there’s not really a number to call if you wanna make a pothole.”)

To prevent potholes from becoming an issue for you, driving with caution is the best route.

Try to:

  • Leave space between cars so you can spot upcoming potholes.
  • Avoid big puddles.
  • Slow down ahead of unmissable potholes and ease off the brake at the last moment.
  • Check your tires and rims regularly.
  • Not ignore suspension noise.

For the full data from our pothole Twitter study, please check out the interactive table below.

Final Boarding Call

I was born and raised in the greater New York metropolitan area and am currently based in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area — and although I am not surprised about the number nor the veracity of the potholes within the city of Atlanta, I never thought they would beat the ones in New York. Maybe the elimination of most of the West Side Highway combined with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway possibly finally being a decent highway on which to drive might be factors?

With its plethora of what are known as F Roads, Iceland would have been an interesting country to include in this article…

…but the one pothole which added to a day already fraught with problems for me was neither in the United States nor the United Kingdom nor Iceland. It is — hopefully, was? — located on Highway R76 approximately 20 kilometers northwest of Steynsrus in what seemed like the middle of nowhere in South Africa; and it instantly put both the tire and the wheel hub out of commission when the car hit it.

Please read more about my experience of driving on my way from Johannesburg to Lesotho in this article

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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