Did you know that potholes are one of the top causes of car accidents? These bowl-shaped holes in the pavement can be up to a foot deep. They are typically caused by weather and wear-and-tear. These holes are formed when the asphalt wears down to its concrete foundation. A pothole may take a long time to form, but once it does it may grow deeper quickly, especially in adverse weather conditions. Cars hitting potholes at 35 mph or more can cause significant damage to suspension and shocks. Repeated impacts can cause serious property damage or injury.


Other problems contributing to accidents may arise from poor road conditions. Missing, damaged, or overgrown road signs may cause confusion. Icy roads that are not salted or plowed can cause sliding. Blind curves without warnings are dangerous. Broken or faulty traffic signals can misdirect vehicles. Poor visibility can be due to broken street lamps. Overgrown plants can obstruct roadways. Lack of road markings on newly paved roads can cause confusion. Improper signage at construction sites can mislead motorists. Broken guardrails can put drivers at higher risks for collisions.


Who is Liable?


It is the local government's job to maintain roadways and public areas. When an accident occurs due to a pothole, a broken streetlight, or similar problem, the government is usually liable. It discovers poor road conditions through people reporting problems or regularly observing road conditions. The government is generally liable only when it is already aware of the problem and has not yet fixed it. The government may be held reliable if a case can be made that it should have discovered the issue but did not out of negligence. Liability is also waved if the government has not had time to fix the problem.


The public may use damaged sidewalks, but property owners usually maintain them. Owners pay for maintenance through property tax. It is the responsibility of owners to hire repair personnel or otherwise attend to repairs, snow removal, overgrowth maintenance, and other problems. If sidewalks contain business merchandise or displays, they cannot extend more than three feet into the sidewalk from the building and must be shorter than five feet.


Sometimes sidewalks are obstructed with trashcans or personal property. For residential properties, trash containers should be placed on driveways or sidewalks at certain times of the day. If an obstruction problem persists, the property owner or city may be contacted. On commercial properties, trash containers should be stowed until one hour before closing or within two hours of the collection during the day.


How Do I Report Problems?


First, reporting a problem requires discovering whether a city, county, or agency is responsible for maintaining that roadway. Potholes on roadways maintained by the City of Columbus may be reported to the Service Center. Roadways maintained by the Ohio Department of Transportation may be reported by calling 1-800-372-7714. If you are unsure of who is responsible, either of these services may direct you to the proper contacts.


Broken traffic lights can be reported by calling 614-645-7393. Provide detailed information on the location and your direction of travel.


To report missing or damaged roadway signs other than stop-signs and yield-signs, contact the 311 Call Center at 614-645-3111 or email 311@columbus.gov.


For any other conditions, call the 311 Call Center. Your complaint will be processed on a priority basis.