SINGAPORE: Ms Zuraida Abdul Rahman Gulam and her family were on the way home from a late dinner last Sunday evening (Jan 10) when they quite literally hit a bump in the road.
While driving in the left-most lane on the Pan Island Expressway towards Tuas, Ms Zuraida's husband ran into a pothole just before the Tampines exit. The thud and loud sound triggered an “intense” shock, Ms Zuraida said.
"It was a highway, and that made it even scarier to have hit something at that speed, with that kind of impact and noise," the 40-year-old cabin crew told CNA.
"If It wasn't for the car's dipping movement, it could have been mistaken for deadfall falling on top of the car."
Ms Zuraida said her two children sitting in the back were "stunned" and kept asking if they had hit something. By then it was drizzling, the roads were wet and there was more to come.
As her husband took the exit and approached the first left turn into Tampines Avenue 1, the road surface, which covered with puddles, became even more difficult to see. This was when he hit another pothole.
“I really thought my husband ran over a rock or fallen branch,” Ms Zuraida said of the second jolt. “We were thankful that we managed to reach home safely.”
Upon getting home, they saw that the front left tyre was punctured and the wheel rim dented and cracked.
Ms Zuraida’s husband took his father's car and returned to both potholes to take pictures, eager to see what could have caused such damage. One of the photographs show that the second pothole was big enough to fit an average-sized umbrella.
WET WEATHER AND FORMATION OF POTHOLES
Ms Zuraida's account comes as Singapore is experiencing a spell of rainy weather since late last month due to monsoon surges in the region. The wet conditions contribute to the formation of potholes, civil engineers told CNA.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said on Friday (Jan 15) that the number of potholes detected in January so far is double the monthly average detected in 2020, attributing this spike to "prolonged wet weather" in the past few weeks.
Potholes in roads start as cracks on the road surface, which occur as part of normal wear and tear, the authority told CNA.
"These do not normally cause problems: Motorists are able to continue travelling safely, and LTA fixes these cracks as part of our regular inspection, maintenance and road resurfacing works regime," it said.
But with the prolonged heavy downpour in recent weeks, more water is seeping into these cracks, LTA said.
"The continuous movement of vehicles over the road pavement causes the water to seep further into the cracks, causing the cracks to widen," it explained. "In some cases, they become potholes."
These cracks expose the road's base layer of dense granite stones, transport engineering consultant Gopinath Menon said. The stones are "scattered by moving vehicles, resulting in holes on the road", he added.
The continuous pressure from vehicles further weaken the road's already damaged foundation, making the potholes "grow bigger and bigger", said Mr Rajan Krishnan, chief executive at construction firm KTC Group.
After running into two potholes, Ms Zuraida said they ended up spending S$700 to replace the tyre and all four wheel rims because they were only sold in a set, and it was near impossible to find a replacement rim with the same size, colour and specifications.
She has reported the incident to LTA.
“I’m really hoping that the LTA could and would compensate (for) the damage,” she added. “Everywhere, people are posting of similar incidents.”
A series of photos were posted on Facebook page ROADS.sg on Wednesday, showing potholes in different locations, from Sims Avenue to Shenton Way.
The post has drawn more than 1,900 shares and 700 comments, with some netizens saying they have spotted potholes in other areas and lamenting the current state of Singapore roads.
GrabFood delivery rider Mr Mar, 27, told CNA he hit a pothole last Saturday evening as he was sending his 15th order of the day to Pasir Ris amid a torrential downpour.
Mr Mar, who only wanted to be known by his first name, was riding along Tampines Avenue 7 near the former Tampines Junior College when he felt a "loud and sudden thud". He managed to steady his motorcycle and prevent it from skidding.
"The visibility was poor and the pothole was filled with water," he said, relieved that both he and his motorcycle escaped unscathed. "Luckily, nothing happened."
LTA said all reported road defects are typically rectified "as soon as possible".
"LTA will first temporarily patch the pothole for safety, and assess the road condition and arrange for a more permanent solution such as localised road resurfacing after the rainy season," it added.
HOW POTHOLES ARE FIXED
To fix the potholes, Mr Krishnan said workers must first cut up the asphalt surface and dig out the base to clean out all the water.
"Then they will put in a new base, compact the stones properly and seal it off again with asphalt," he said. "Small potholes can be fixed within a couple of hours."
Nevertheless, Mr Menon said this process is difficult to carry out during heavy rain.
When asked if there was any way to prevent potholes from forming in the first place, Mr Krishnan said they are "sure to happen here and there" given that Singapore has thousands of kilometres of roads.
"There's no perfect situation anywhere," he said.
"The roads are subjected to heavy traffic load every hour of the day ... so even the smallest cracks can grow very fast especially during the rainy weather when there's water everywhere."
READ: LTA to add safety features, resurface road along PIE near Upper Bukit Timah after skidding accidents
Despite that, Mr Menon said the quality of road surface materials and construction techniques have improved over the years, resulting in a more durable road surface.
"Potholes are rarely spotted on our roads and when they appear, road inspection teams ensure that potholes are patched up quickly," he said.
With the recent wet weather, motorists should slow down in rainy conditions just in case they encounter potholes that have not been fixed, Singapore Road Safety Council chairman Bernard Tay said.
"There may be other potholes very near each other," he said, pointing out that visibility is already poor. "You cannot drive at the normal speed."
Mr Tay advised motorists to maintain their vehicles properly, including their windscreen wipers and tyres. Tyres with the wrong pressure could cause more damage when running into a pothole, he said.
As for motorcyclists, Mr Tay encouraged them to wait under a rain shelter or be "extra careful" as potholes are especially dangerous to their vehicles.
"If they suddenly go through it, it might imbalance the vehicle and cause them to fall on the road," he said. "You have to be alert on two wheels."
Reducing speed will also minimise any potential damage from going over potholes, he said, noting that not all insurance policies will cover the cost of resulting repairs.
Mr Tay encouraged drivers to report potholes to LTA so they can be patched up. "They can be a danger to anybody," he added.
LTA urged members of the public to report road defects via feedback channels like the LTA website, the Snap & Send function on the MyTransport.SG mobile application, or the Municipal Services Office’s OneService application.
"We would like to seek commuters and motorists’ understanding as we work with our contractors to expedite the repair works," the authority said.
"We would also like to take this opportunity to remind motorists to drive safely, particularly during the prevailing wet weather conditions."