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Roads deteriorate: One in five receive state compensation for vehicle damage in Lapland

Over a thousand claims are filed each year in northern Finland for damage to cars caused by potholes and other road problems. Only 20 percent of claimants receive compensation from the state.

Auto lumisella tiellä Inarissa kesäkuussa.
Photo taken on 9 June 2015 in Inari, Finland. Image: Yle
Pamela Kaskinen

Finland's road conditions have deteriorated for years, and a 2014 report from a parliamentary working group put the total repair deficit for the country's roads, railways and waterways at 2.4 billion euros.

Lapland ELY Centre unit director Marja-Lea Hallikainen says vehicle owners whose cars are damaged by holes in the road in northern Finland not tend to receive state compensation for their losses.

"Just the poor state of the road is not enough. People have to prove that there was also delinquency in road maintenance," she says.

Finnish Transport Agency senior inspector Otto Kärki agrees. He says that motorists bear the brunt of the responsibility for what happens to them on the road.

"If the road is in bad shape, this means that people should be more careful," Kärki says.

Toughest on tyres and wheel rims

The Lapland ELY Centre is the representative of central government in the vast region. Among other things, it is charged with processing the claims for damages on state-owned roads. This does not extend to accidents or damage incurred on municipal or private roads.

"The most typical damage that takes place is to the vehicle's tyres and rims," Hallikainen says.

She says the most road damages to northern Finland's roads occurs when temperatures see-saw between freezing and above-zero temperatures. The spring thaw creates what is known as frost heaving, which lifts areas of the soil and creates cracks, ruts and holes.

Bad roads predicted this spring

This year, the Finnish Transport Agency predicts the worse frost heaving damage along the southern and southwest coasts.

The Agency's Kärki says that things are complicated by the difficulty of repairing roads in a sustainable manner during the winter months. He says that is why the road conditions are at their worse every spring.

Hallikainen notes that 325 compensation claims have been submitted to the Lapland ELY Centre in January and February of this year alone. Last year, a total of 1,961 claims were made, while in 2016 the number was 1,704.

Very few of the damage claims are due to frost heaving, however. Hallikainen says that only 32 of the total were attributed to this in 2017 and 34 the year prior. Authorities are seen to have fulfilled their obligations if they have posted a warning sign in areas with bad spring thaw damage.

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