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Videos

The Hidden Dangers of Driving Over Manholes

Watch cars get launched into the air like rockets due to ill-fitting manhole covers.

The crazy accident you see above happened on Monday, allegedly somewhere in Russia, and was the result of a manhole cover that reacted badly to being driven over. (If you're wondering about the dash cam, tons of Russian drivers have them, perhaps the result of widespread and hilarious traffic-accident scams.)

I bet the driver didn't wake up thinking they'd spend their day picking themselves out of a thicket of downed trees. That's just the way the ball rolls, though, when somebody doesn't put in a manhole right or it becomes dislodged from traffic. The covers are designed to avoid this kind of hazard: Their roundness prevents them from disappearing down into the sewer. But if the opposite is the case, and it's sticking up an inch, carnage can result.

Earlier this month, a loose manhole in Clinton Township, New Jersey, popped up and totaled a car's front and undercarriage. The fuel-dripping vehicle had to be towed away. Glitchy manhole covers have caused a major traffic backup in Chicago, violently derailed a racer at the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, and in June injured commuters in Meriden, Connecticut, by smashing through a bus window.

Here's more manhole mayhem, again apparently in Russia, that's time-stamped for this month:

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.