There are some things in life that are just better with a hole in them, like a big chocolate donut; a 7-inch vinyl single of Night Ranger's "Sister Christian"; and your favorite old pair of jeans.

But there's also a few things that are never better where holes are concerned, including your roof; the story you told your wife about where you'd been all weekend; and any road where you drive your car.

Potholes in winter as a car approaches
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Statistics show potholes do discriminate

Every year, potholes cost American drivers millions of dollars in costly repairs, and sometimes even cause accidents that can lead to serious injuries.

But although potholes are a ubiquitous pitfall nationwide, on a state-by-state basis, they're not created equal - or so it would seem.

Although none of the fifty states officially keep track of just how many potholes plague their drivers on a consistent basis annually, a recent study of online data by USA Today using Google Trends has shed some light on which state's motorists are most likely to encounter them with the greatest frequency. And somewhat surprisingly, Washington State is at the top of the list.

Close up of a pothole
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Washington is the best at being the worst with potholes

Yes, it seems you could actually call the Evergreen State "His Holiness" when it comes to its roadways, since Washington's highways and byways scored highest in the survey's methodology, which included Google searches for the words and terms “pothole,” “potholes,” “pothole repair,” “pothole damage” and “pothole complaint”. Each search was given an index number from zero to one hundred, and that number was then used to generate a composite score for each state.

Along with Washington, the other states that rounded out the top five for most cavities in their algorithm checkup were Minnesota, Michigan, Tennessee, and Indiana.

The states with the fewest chunks missing from their roadways were found to be Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, Arkansas, and Alabama.

Backsplash from a pothole in wet conditions
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Why is Washington top of the pothole charts?

Since there was no science or actual field research conducted to produce the study's results, it's difficult to say exactly why Washington led the way in pothole prevalence. I mean, one could certainly see why the state would head up any survey in its sheer volume of either pot or holes, but the conflation of both leaves a puzzling aftershock.

The best guess this reporter has, at least in part, is Washington's tendency for dramatic swings in temperature from hot to cold - something that creates a phenomenon known as thermal expansion in certain materials like asphalt and concrete, which can cause them to crack and eventually fracture.

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Aside from the ups and downs in the weather, perhaps it's the state's own fastidiousness in keeping its road so well plowed of snow during the winter months that's creating the landscape of Swiss cheese for its drivers? After all, when a plow blade scrapes the surface of any road for any length of time, it's going to have a damaging effect for certain, right?

I guess there's always a chance that the pothole problem in Washington could be linked to some sort of state-assigned Karma too? Maybe all of that pot and all those holes we have around here (especially on the Westside) have made some deity of infrastructural oversight angry, and our cars and their tires are all the ones being punished for it?

A road with several potholes along both sides
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Potholes can be large, numerous, and disabling

For the record, the biggest pothole I have ever encountered in my travels across the U.S. was on State Highway 137 in West Texas. It was during a cross-country move in a rented SUV and it's a damn good thing my then wife and I didn't hit it, otherwise we'd have been calling for a tow truck to winch us out from its immeasurable depths. The thing was absolutely massive and didn't look so much like a pothole as it did an impact crater from an asteroid large enough to at least have killed a few dinosaurs that were within local proximity.

As for the most potholes I've ever seen, that honor goes hands down to Kelso-Cima Road, which runs through the heart of the Mojave National Preserve in the Joshua Tree-checkered deserts of Southeastern California. Again, while traveling with my now ex-wife, we witnessed no fewer than three other vehicles which had struck the heavily pock marked pavement and had become disabled. After only a few minutes on this Lunar surface that's passed off as a county highway, it became quite obvious that the 19-mile drive would become far more like navigating the obstacles in a first-person game of Super Mario Brothers with our Toyota Camry rather than just a leisurely roll through the badlands.

By the way, the folks at USA Today also looked at pothole proliferation by city too, and unsurprisingly based on the outcome of their by-state study, Spokane, Yakima, and Seattle all made the top ten at numbers six, seven, and nine respectively.

If you'd like to have a look at the complete list of states and cities, check out the rest of the USA Today survey.

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