Road Construction Boom Could Be Breaking More Windshields

Bouncing along a highway, kicked up by a tire spinning at 65 mph a small jagged stone can provide a damaging blow to your car's windshield. And it appears more and more windshields are becoming casualties amid the bevy of road construction projects taking place across the region.

It's happened to me twice in two weeks.

A small rock took a gash out of the glass of my Mini Cooper a few weeks ago on the Schuylkill Expressway as I rolled over milled road westbound near Montgomery Drive.

A mobile replacement appointment and 100 bucks later, I had a shiny new windshield. Then on the way to work a week later, along the same stretch of road ... whack! Another pebble chipped the new glass. Cue the frustration.

My experience is not unique, it seems. Insurance and windshield replacement companies say they've seen an uptick in windshield replacements recently and road construction is very likely a contributing factor.

PennDOT has 100 projects underway -- like bridge replacements and road reconstruction -- across the five-county region and 32 miles of state roads are currently milled for resurfacing projects. Another 11 miles were recently finished. In Philadelphia, 11 miles of road are torn up awaiting fresh asphalt.

Hidden in the crevices and along the shoulders are the rocky missiles that can break free and wreak havoc on your car.

"It's luck," said Keenan McCafferty, the district manager for Safelite AutoGlass' Philadelphia region. "You'll never even see it coming. It could be the largest stone, it could be the smallest pebble."

Safelite, the largest auto glass repair company in the country that makes 500 repair calls a day in our region, has seen a 6 percent increase in road construction damage over last year.

Insurance company State Farm has seen an increase nationwide in windshield claims. In Pennsylvania, they've processed nearly 20,000 windshield claims through June. In all of last year, there more than 38,000 claims statewide.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said auto glass repairs jump upward of 20 percent during the warmer months.

All three companies don't have firm data because they rely on self-reporting by customers, but often hear anecdotes about damage taking place in construction zones. They say other factors like potholes and extreme weather with hail and downed trees contributes.

So is there anything you can do to protect your car's windshield? Not really, aside from the obvious of avoiding construction zones and not driving behind dump trucks filled with stones.

PennDOT spokesman Gene Blaum said the state requires contractors to use vacuum trucks to pick up loose stones following a milling to minimize debris. City contractors do the same. He says, though, stones can still break free once cars and trucks start using the roads again.

Dave Phillips, spokesman for State Farm, said spacing out your vehicle while driving through work zones could help.

"There is value in reminding people not to tailgate and keep distance from other vehicles to avoid projectiles launched from roadway debris, stones, or loose asphalt near construction zones," he said.

If your windshield does get damaged, McCafferty says don't wait to get it fixed. Some chips can be filled without replacing the glass — a cheaper and less time-consuming option.

"Eventually that small stone shot that you took will spread. It could be later that day, it could be three weeks later, it could be a year later, but eventually it will spread," he said.

Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter and Facebook.

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