Pothole season is in full swing in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest, it’s been a harsh winter. I hear local traffic reports each morning from Chicago warning of new potholes so large they cause sever damage to the wheels, tires and suspension potentially costing thousands of dollars. A pothole could cause a surprised motorist to lose control and cause loss of life. Here is an image found on the internets of some potholes on Lake Shore Drive near Chicago’s Grant Park. They are typical Chicago potholes.
Out here in Valparaiso a packed rough snow covers all the roads, it’s too cold for salt to work. After this weekend’s predicted thaw I’m sure we will have our share of potholes.
Recently I had an auto accident, my first in decades.
Yes, I had an accident. It happened on my December duck hunting trip to southwestern Illinois. It was weather-related too.
We departed on a midweek afternoon. It would be dark for most of the trip down I-55 through central Illinois. A “wintry mix” was predicted. The Ford Exploder was packed with luggage, ammo, firearms and the necessary fowl hunting gear. It has 4WD and I don’t drive like an a$$hole so, no worries eh mate?
We were greeted at the Illinois border by sleet, little ice balls. Later it turned to rain, then snow, then rain, then snow. The pavement was slush and my speed was about 50 mph. Over half way to our destination the precip stopped. Then it began snowing lightly.
As I neared the top of a large overpass just north of Lincoln, IL it looked like black ice. I did exactly the wrong thing. I slowed down. The friction of my tires slowing caused me to lose control. On top of the overpass the car went to the left. I steered out of it. The car steered right, I fought it but the car went sideways on the overpass. We were heading for the guardrail and a sharp drop to the bottom of the overpass if the guardrail didn’t do it’s job. It was a complete loss of control, a very helpless feeling.
The Exploder slammed into the guardrail head on going about 45-50 mph. It bounced back, did a 360 and I steered back into the proper direction. She was scared sh!tless and I was in shock. No other autos were on the overpass. I had no idea how extensive the damage was. There was front end damage for sure but it felt as if the side may have hit. I limped down the left side emergency lane staying clear of any traffic. I watched my meters to make sure that I had oil pressure and the coolant wasn’t leaking. Soon we came to a median turn around spot so I pulled in to stay away from other cars that may lose control on the icy road.
Using a high-powered flashlight I got out into the freezing rain and wind to expect the worst. The damage was limited to the front bumper. The grille and headlights were fine. No damage to the radiator or transmission cooler. At first she wanted me to keep going but something in my mind told me I needed a police report in case my insurance company had doubt and refused my claim. I used the cell phone to dial 911 and they transferred me to the state police who told me a patrol car was on the way because a witness already called in. She was giving me crap telling me we needed no police report but I refused to leave even having to listen to incredible b!tching from the Mrs. After about twenty minutes a state patrol car pulled up. His window was outside mine as he proceed to do his thing, one of which was not to get out and examine my car. When through he told me a report would be mailed to my address, it seemed strange.
We continued on our way and had a fine time visiting with old friends and whacking quite a few ducks after a four hour trip turned out to take seven.
On the way home I intended to stop and take a photo of the guardrail we hit just for the record. When I approached the mile marker in front of the overpass I slowed down and looked for the damaged guardrail. There was no damage, none. The guardrail really did its job.
When I arrived home the first order of business was to talk to my insurance agent. He sent me to a body shop where they estimated only $1,200 in damage. They scheduled the repairs and after Christmas the Expolder was repaired and I paid my $250. deductible. As it turned out there was no need for a police report, my agent explained. It’s been a long time since I was involved in an auto accident but years ago a police report was mandatory.
I wrote all that so I could tell you this.
A week ago a letter came from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). It included a copy of the state police report. In the form letter from a state employee it explained that I owed the state compensation for damage to public property. It asked how I would be paying for the damages. Obviously nobody examined my car, the guardrail or called my insurance company for details. This looked like a typical Illinois government bureaucratic hustle. It was meant to intimidate me and that was the idea. They wanted to fill the depleated coffers of a corrupt government, plain and simple. You can be sure this isn’t the only revenue generating hustle that the state of Illinois runs.
I went to my insurance agent and showed him the letter and document. He represents a leading nationwide company that advertises on NFL games. He told me he would take care of it. I explained that there was no damage to state property and his company should fight it. He winked and told me many states try to scam money in hustles just like this and he would make a note. He said the note would cause his company to fight it all the way. I trust they will.
IF you hit a pothole in Illinois do you think the state would compensate YOU for the damages caused by poorly maintained roadways? Good luck with that one.
I also found this image looking for pothole photos. I want to place one of these on the road in front of my bunker.