Hubcap graveyard: Dozens of vehicles fall victim to pothole on Route 10

Submitted by motor vehicle accident lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

RANDOLPH — Badump. Crank. Thunk. Hiss.

That’s more or less what it sounded like for the last week outside of Eleventh Hour Animal Rescue, across from a Ford dealership on Route 10.

Over and over again, cars would make their way down the right lane at highway speeds. And over and over again, they’d violently confront their nemesis.

“It wasn’t one of those giant potholes like you’d see on the news,” said Eleventh Hour volunteer Tara Merritt. “But it was big. It was deep. It was awkward. It was just big enough that if the front of your car hit it, you were done. And there are still hubcaps out there — I saw them just up the road.”

That’s in addition to the dozens of hubcaps and other vehicular debris Merritt’s collected on Eleventh Hour’s front lawn. It’s sort of a shrine to the fallen car parts. A warning to others to be careful. And, as Merritt first intended it, a place where owners can recover what they’ve lost.

“Some people save up a really long time to buy a car,” she said. “I’d be really annoyed if this happened to me.”

As of late Tuesday, the pothole was gone, filled in by a DOT crew — but the reminder of the damage it did remained. There were at least 15 hubcaps alone, Merritt said.

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Merritt herself avoided falling victim to the pothole — she usually sneaks onto the shoulder before turning into Eleventh Hour. But she said several of her fellow volunteers have seen their vehicles damaged.

The pothole began forming about a week ago, she said. It got worse once warmer March days started settling in, and the asphalt began to crumble. Merritt said she called police Monday morning to report it.

But by then, the road was a mess.

“There were pieces of bumper, rear-view mirrors, pieces of metal, everything,” she said. “Sometimes, when you saw a car hit it, you’d see a giant shake and hear a noise, almost like there was a huge accident,” she said. “At night, it was like every third or fourth car was hitting it.”

Some hubcaps, she said, was split right in half.

“How do you hit it so hard it busts them in half?” Merritt asked.

The pothole may have been a bad one, but it’s got a lot of competition for the worst in New Jersey. Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox said earlier this week the state is prepared to spend $4 million has committed 67 crews to pothole repair. State DOT officials said they’re expecting to fill 300,000 potholes than last year, a third more than the 180,000 holes typically filled in a year.

That’s not counting the many potholes on local and county roads, which fall to municipal and county departments to fix.

Randolph Detective Lt. Christopher Guiliani said there weren’t any major accidents reported to police that had been attributed to the pothole. When one poses a particularly strong hazard, he said, police may station an officer to direct motorists around it, he said.

“There are potholes all over the place right now,” he said.

Merritt took it upon herself to start collecting the debris from Route 10 in light traffic Monday morning. She said she found pieces alongside the road, in lawns, even on the median across the highway.

“Some of this must have gone flying through the air like saucers,” she said.

She saw several motorists pulled over into a CVS up the road, changing tires or waiting for roadside assistance services.

“I really worried about this,” she said. “If you went and hit it, and then went into the fast lane, you could have a really huge accident.”

Merritt said she worries about the damage done to cars that didn’t happen to have pieces falling off, too — for instance, a pricey-looking BMW tha hit the pothole hard.

“There are a lot of pissed off people that this happened to them.”

At one point, she saw a school bus coming down the road.

“I was running across the highway, waiving my hands, because I was afraid the school bus was going to hit it and get into an accident.

Merritt said she’s noticed some of the hubcaps she collected have gone missing — hopefully reclaimed by rightful owners. That’s why she started collecting the debris in the first place.

But she said she’s still seen more on the road and on neighboring properties.

For her part, Merritt just urges caution, even though the pothole outside Eleventh Hour has been repaired.

“You could tell the people who hit it the hardest were the ones on cell phones,” she said. Because they’re paying not attention.”

Originally published on nj.com by Louis C. Hochman. Louis may be reached at lhochman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @LouisCHochman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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