February 14, 2011 Updated Feb 14, 2011 at 9:46 PM EDT


February 14, 2011 Updated Feb 14, 2011 at 9:46 PM EDT

(Erie County, N.Y.) Potholes are a common sight this time of year.

They form as the result of water freezing beneath the road surface. This frozen ice then pushes portions of the road upward which results in cracking.

Snowplow blades scrap away these 'bumps' and car tires hit the damaged road area creating an even bigger hole.

The problem is worst when there are many 'freeze-thaw' cycles.

This year, there is some good news about the number of potholes.

Erie County Commissioner of Public Works, Jerry Sentz, tells Eyewitness News, "This isn't as bad as other years."

"This year, it seems to have gotten cold, stayed cold . . . so we haven't had the thawing. So, we are getting a much deeper freeze but you are not getting the heaving up and down where it creates as many potholes."

But Sentz adds, "It seems like the potholes we are getting are bigger because the freeze is so much deeper."

At the AAA Car Care Plus center on Main Street in Clarence, store manager Vern Martell says they are seeing a steady flow of pothole damaged vehicles.

"About 11% of our service calls are for flat tires and pothole damage."

The AAA recommends that drivers check tire pressure.

"Proper tire air pressure helps cushion and protect the wheel rim when you hit a pothole," says Vern Martell.

Drivers should also maintain a good distance from the vehicle ahead during this time of year.

"This way you can see those unforseen potholes that are coming up from cars in front of you," advises Martell.