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Credit: Pam Broviak

Research shows that patching potholes and filling cracks so roads look like this one in Geneva, Ill., would save drivers $12.5 billion on fuel annually

Smoother roads would enable U.S. drivers to conserve up to 3.7 billion gallons of gas and 1.3 billion gallons of diesel each year, according to research from Auburn University in Alabama.

After analyzing more than 20 pavement studies conducted around the globe, researchers presented a preview of their findings at the National Asphalt Pavement Association's Midyear Meeting in July: Smoothness and reduced "rolling resistance" significantly improve fuel economy.

"Of the two main influences on rolling resistance - those due to the stiffness properties of the tire and those due to imperfections in the pavement surface - the pavement industry has the opportunity to influence only one: the pavement itself," presenter Richard Willis told attendees.