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Rough Roads

July 17, 2006

Drivers have come to expect high prices for gas. But the roads themselves may be jacking up your car expenses.


The hidden toll of rough roads. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Gas prices may give you sticker shock, but badly paved roads can drain your wallet without even warning you. This according to Lynne Irwin, a professor of highway engineering at Cornell University. He says the cost per mile of driving on rough roads can be up to 67 percent higher than on smooth ones – for several reasons.

LYNNE IRWIN (Cornell University):
Just the bouncing and jouncing tends to increase tire wear, increase wear on shock absorbers, and so on.

Since 1988, Irwin has been part of a study that’s tested over 2,000 patches of highway for hidden signs of weakness. Based on the research, highway agencies are now changing the way they pave roads. The new methods factor in local weather and vehicle traffic, and can also predict when the road will need repaving.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.