Sinkhole in Miami, FL
If you live around Miami — or really anywhere in Florida — you have plenty of fears not shared by most other Americans: Hurricanes and storm surges, flooding, getting gobbled up by a gator, the Bills winning the AFC East again. Yet there’s one communal fear that’s growing with each and every news story: Sinkholes.

Maybe you’ve heard of the catastrophic failure of a decades-old Miami apartment complex. One of the possible culprits of that disaster is a sinkhole. (Please note: the cause of the collapse has not been discovered as of June 28, 2021).

Or this one, in which a water main broke, causing a sinkhole to devour some of Biscayne Bay in Miami. Or this one, in which a giant sinkhole opens up underneath a bike path and traffic sign. Or this one. Or this one.

While sinkholes aren’t exclusive to Florida — anyone sees this viral video of a sinkhole taking a Hyundai Venue for a ride to see Hades? — they are certainly a concern for some drivers. Here’s what you need to know about sinkholes and what you should do if you find your vehicle sucked into one.

Sinkholes are NOT Potholes

First, you need to understand what sinkholes are – and what they aren’t. A common misconception is that a sinkhole is basically like a massive pothole. This is false.

Potholes are damaged sections of a road’s surface. Here’s a pothole:

Pothole Damage in Miami, FLYeah, driving over one sucks. They can bend rims, make tires go flat, throw off your alignment, maybe even damage the underside of your car. But they aren’t dangerous to the structural integrity of the road itself – they’re just inconveniences.

For comparison's sake, here’s a sinkhole:

Sinkhole in Road

Notice how there’s no bottom? No pooling water? If they did collect water, they’d be more like swimming pools than puddles. That’s because sinkholes are literally holes that can be as deep as a hundred feet. Unlike potholes, sinkholes are damaged sections underneath a road’s surface, typically the result of erosion. As such, sinkholes are infinitely more dangerous and damaging than potholes.

Where do Sinkholes Form?

A sinkhole can form just about anywhere, though they thrive in certain terrain and conditions. For instance, sinkholes are common in areas with lots of limestone or dolomite terrain. The more limestone or dolomite there is in a region, the higher the chances of erosion. If that region is also prone to humidity and lots of groundwater accumulation, those chances increase.

Why is that bad for Florida drivers? The state sits on an enormous slab of limestone, is about 4000% humidity from January to December, and is in the path of more hurricanes and tropical storms than any other state. It’s a recipe for a sinkhole catastrophe, which experts call “cover collapse.”

How to Spot a Sinkhole

Sinkholes usually occur after a long bout of rain, flooding, or water main break. One telltale sign of a sinkhole forming is cracking. You’ll notice new cracks starting on the road's surface, and those cracks will spread and grow quickly.

Sinkhole Under Road
Another sign of sinkholes is a crumbling shoulder. This may begin slowly and appear like a pothole. Over time, typically within several days or weeks, the asphalt will give way, and you’ll be left with a sinkhole.

Really, though, identifying a sinkhole while you’re driving is nearly impossible unless it’s plain as day. Sinkholes can form at any given moment, at any given place, and under any given vehicle. It’s best to be prepared. 

What Happens if Your Car Gets Sucked into a Sinkhole?

Hopefully, it’s just your vehicle that gets caught in a sinkhole, not your vehicle and you. If that’s the case, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Here are some other tips:
  • In most cases, auto insurance will cover sinkhole damage to your vehicle – if you have the right coverage. Sinkhole car insurance coverage doesn’t exist (yet), but your policy’s optional comprehensive auto insurance coverage will likely take care of things for you. (This is what protects you from a falling traffic sign, tree, or if you hit a deer.)
  • Before or after you contact the police and your insurance agent, you’ll also want to call a tow truck to help you retrieve your vehicle, of course.
  • If you’re involved in a sinkhole accident that’s caused substantial damage to your vehicle or resulted in an injury, you may also be able to seek compensation from the city or state. Obviously, you’ll need to consult with a lawyer, as this is not our Hyundai dealership’s forte. (We just sell and repair cars in Miami!)
  • Unless deep water is involved, sinkhole car damage is oftentimes only cosmetic. A professional auto body shop near you should be able to handle these issues, no problem.
  • If you are in the vehicle when you fall in a sinkhole, escape right away. Don’t try to grab or save anything. Just get out. The sinkhole may be deep, remember.
  • Always keep a glass-breaking tool in your vehicle’s glove compartment. These may come in handy if you fall into a sinkhole with water. These tools cost less than $20 and can save your life.
  • Wear your seatbelts! If your car falls into a sinkhole, your seatbelt and the airbags will protect you quite well.

Stay Safe, Miami!

Sinkholes are rare, even though we seem to see them in headlines frequently. Still, it’s a good idea to always be prepared for the worst-case scenario. So, keep these tips in mind as you drive!

If you find yourself needing a good autobody shop or mechanic in Miami, visit our Braman collision center or dealership. We service Hyundai vehicles and a wide variety of other makes and models. Contact our Miami Hyundai dealer at (786) 623-4261 to request more info, a tow, or an estimate for repairs.

Categories: News, Body Shop