Many of our nation’s roads are embarrassing

As we traveled throughout several parts of the country this year, we started tracking when road conditions were especially bad. In part, it’s because we’re noticing this much more now that we’re towing an Airstream trailer. (We used to drive a Class B motorhome.)

Our routes from January through September included numerous states. We traveled from Michigan to Florida and then west to Utah and back north to Michigan.

We clocked specific sections of interstate that were in especially rough shape. The one that stands out the most is I-40 through Louisiana. Part of I-70 through the mountains of Colorado was a very unpleasant experience. The curves and steep grades probably enhanced the rough sections. And there are ridiculously rough stretches of I-69 and I-96 in Michigan.

Many states had miscellaneous rough roads to contend with. But, taken as a whole to include interstate freeways, state highways and local roads, Michigan tops the list for being the worst.

A blown tire on our Roadtrek RV happened after a series of bad pothole hits in Michigan.

According to a report from the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council, 40% of Michigan’s roads were in poor condition in 2022. Forty percent! A number of studies have found that Michigan has some of the worst roads in the country. A 2019 study by the Reason Foundation found that Michigan ranked 49th out of 50 states in terms of road quality. A 2020 study by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association found that Michigan had the second-highest percentage of roads in poor condition in the country.

I lost track of the number of times I muttered “this country should be embarrassed.” We are a nation that leads the world in so many advancements. And yet, in many states, our roads are in deplorable condition. And they are damaging the vehicles driven on them.

People complain about high gas prices — us among them. And we aren’t fans of seeing gas taxes raised although we understand that may be one solution. But higher taxes aren’t the only solution.

Michigan’s gas tax ranks sixth nationally. Ranking high for gas tax and also high for terrible roads clearly shows pouring more money into a broken system won’t work.

Bad roads can cause a variety of damage to your RV. Some of the most common problems include:

  • Tire Damage: Rough roads can significantly increase and accelerate the wear and tear on tires.
  • Suspension damage: Bad roads can put a lot of strain on the suspension system designed to absorb bumps and keep the RV level. This can lead to damage to the shocks, springs, and other components.
  • Frame damage: The frame is the skeleton of the RV, and it’s responsible for holding everything together. Bad roads can cause the frame to bend or crack, which can lead to serious problems.
  • Body damage: Potholes, bumps and other road hazards can damage RV body panels and other components.
  • Interior damage: The interior of the RV is also susceptible to damage from bad roads. Cabinets, appliances, and other fixtures can be shaken loose or damaged, and the walls and floors can be scratched or dented.

Bad roads can also lead to problems with the RV’s plumbing, electrical system, and other components.

Our federal and state governments need to get their act together and restore our road quality. In the meantime, there are a few things you as a driver can do:

  • Slow down: This will give you more time to react to road hazards and avoid hitting them.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: Pay attention to the road conditions. And be prepared to swerve or slow down if necessary.
  • Avoid potholes and bumps: Try to avoid bumps by swerving or slowing down.
  • Consider a lower tire pressure: Always keep your tires at a safe pressure, but sometimes running them at full psi per some RV manufacturers’ recommendations is asking for a rough road to turn into an extra-rough ride.
  • Use common sense: If the road conditions are too bad, it’s best to take a detour.

But also consider reaching out to your federal and state elected officials to complain about road conditions. They control the budgets, but they also oversee the departments in charge of fixing our roads. And it’s time they all got better at their jobs.

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