18 Chilling Winter Driving Statistics in 2020

Last modified: November 15, 2020

As you brave the winter roads, natural forces such as snow and ice are just around the corner. Learn how to stay safe with our winter driving statistics and tips.

During the winter months, it’s so easy to get cozy indoors — you can just curl up on the couch, drink hot chocolate, and binge-watch your favorite films. But what happens once you walk outside and go for a drive? Wintertime can be fun and exciting yet, somehow, it’s a pretty dangerous season; particularly for drivers.

With 17% of all car crashes occurring during winter, it’s clear that a safe journey is nigh impossible while driving on icy roads. However, keep your cool; we collated the most essential winter driving statistics that will open your eyes to the real dangers of winter driving. What’s more, we have some tips here that should be helpful in ensuring your safe travels.

It’s about to get chilly in here so bundle up and read on!

The Most Remarkable Winter Driving Stats and Facts — Editor’s Choice

  • Every year, over 1,000 people are killed in vehicle crashes on slushy, icy, or snowy roads.
  • Illinois saw a total of 286,919 winter vehicle accidents since 2006, according to statistics on winter driving.
  • Ohio is one of the worst states for winter driving with 143 fatal car crashes occurring in the winter of 2015 alone.
  • Most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement (around 70%) and during rainfall (46%).
  • A driver’s braking ability becomes severely impaired during wintry conditions; it takes up to 10 times longer to stop when driving on snowy roads.

Recent Major Winter Car Crashes in the US

1. 69 cars were involved in a crash on Interstate 64 (Virginia)

As you might have suspected, the crash — which happened on December 23, 2019 — was caused by ice and fog, resulting in minor to life-threatening injuries. Some 69 cars crashed in a chain reaction and emergency units had to squeeze their way from car to car just so they could rescue the victims.

Source: 9News

2. A winter storm caused multiple deaths in winter-related crashes in over four US states

Another December 2019 tragedy happened as a strong winter storm caused ice road accidents in various US states — Nebraska, Omaha, Missouri, Utah, and Kansas. Over nine lives were lost due to dense snow and freezing rain. There were also hundreds of stranded motorists and a few injury crashes due to the harsh weather.

Source: NBC News

3. 100 cars were involved in an accident in Colorado due to a ferocious winter storm

The winter storm has been classified as a bomb cyclone, which unleashed hurricane-force winds and left many parts of the central US in an extreme snowstorm and blizzard conditions. A hundred vehicles were involved in an accident on Interstate 25 near Colorado; injuries ranged from minor to serious ones but there were no fatalities reported. Nevertheless, this event became one of the major winter driving accidents of 2019.

Source: CNN

4. Indiana saw one semi-truck jackknife along a snowy highway with almost 20 vehicle slide-offs

A winter storm that swept across the Midwest left Indiana with several vehicle crashes. The areas in and around the Lafayette district were covered with snow and some lanes had to be closed down to clean the crash site and prevent further accidents.

Source: AP News

Winter Driving Accident Statistics

5. Every year, over 1,000 people are killed in vehicle crashes on slushy, icy, or snowy pavements

As such, 24% of all weather-related car crashes occur on slushy, icy, or snowy pavements annually. To put that into perspective, more than 70% of all US roads are located in snowy regions and 70% of the entire US population lives in these areas.

Winter driving statistics and reports also show that ice and snow can alter the pavements’ friction and cause difficulties in maneuvering vehicles. This will most likely result in slower driving speeds, reduced roadway capacity, and increased crash risks.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

6. About 900 people are killed in the US every year in vehicle crashes due to snow

Meanwhile, over 75,000 people get injured annually due to unsafe winter driving. Aside from deaths and injuries, winter crashes also lead to hefty costs for road maintenance, infrastructure repairs, and ice control operations.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

7. Illinois saw a total of 286,919 winter car crashes since 2006

Every year, there are more than 28,000 winter vehicle crashes in Illinois alone; 2008 was the period with the highest number of reported crashes in the state (60,067); 98 people died due to said crashes that same year.

Source: Icy Road Safety

8. Rain and snow can increase the risk of fatal car crashes by 34%

A 2019 study found that precipitation, regardless of its intensity, can increase the risk of deadly vehicle crashes. As such, the larger the precipitation, the higher the chance of getting into a car crash. Precipitation during winter is said to be much more dangerous than in summer due to the presence of snow.

Source: Washington Post

Weather-Related Car Accidents Statistics

9. Out of 5.8 million annual vehicle crashes in the US, some 21% are weather-related

This means that, on average, the number of annual weather-related crashes sits at 1.2 million. Mind you, these crashes don’t just happen because of snow. Namely, any adverse weather conditions (fog, rain, sleet, severe crosswinds, etc.), as well as slick pavement, can cause deadly crashes.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

10. Most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement (70%) and during rainfall (46%)

Weather-related car accident statistics show that an average of 860,286 crashes happen on wet pavement while some 556,151 occur during rainfall. Meanwhile, snow/sleet and icy pavement are also considered major causes of accidents, accounting for 18% and 13% of all weather-related crashes, respectively.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

11. Precipitation can impact a driver’s operational decisions in several ways

Depending on the type, length, and rate of precipitation, a driver may behave differently behind the wheel — making winter car accidents all the more common. In essence, this type of weather condition can affect several operational aspects — vehicle performance, speed limit control, road treatment strategy, traffic signal timing, and driver capabilities among others. Traffic flow and roadway capacity may be affected as well.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

12. Only 3% of weather-related crashes happen in foggy conditions

According to the most recent reports, around 25,451 crashes happen in foggy conditions while more than 8,000 people get injured annually. Although these figures are less scary than those provided by winter driving accident statistics, still, driving in foggy conditions is certainly not the time to multi-task or be inattentive.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

13. Driving through a hurricane can be as dangerous as driving during rainfall or winter

In the last 30 years, inland flooding (due to heavy rain and high winds) accounted for half of the hurricane deaths in the US. Of all these deaths, one in four people drowned inside a car.

Source: Safer America

14. Ohio is one of the worst states for winter driving

Going back to winter driving statistics, Ohio had the highest number of fatal winter car crashes (143) in 2015 alone. As one of the northern states, this is hardly surprising since snow in this area is fairly common; only in Cleveland, Ohio, there can be as high as 56 inches of snow every year.

Meanwhile, Texas is another name that pops up in the list of states with disastrous winter driving accidents. The Lone Star State isn’t known for its snowy and icy conditions. Yet, when these get severe, massive accidents follow suit. Other contributing factors include Texans’ lack of exposure to wintry conditions and the lack of sufficient auto equipment.

Source: Auto Insurance Center

15. Statistics show that summer driving is more dangerous than winter driving

Summer months, including June, July, and August reportedly have 29% more deaths than the winter months of January, February, and December. It is also worth noting that summer driving results in 20% more miles driven than winter driving; hence, the longer you drive, the greater your chances of getting into a vehicle crash. Also, it’s a well-known fact that the more the Americans drive, the more it affects their overall car insurance costs.

Source: ValChoice

Winter Driving Safety Statistics

16. A driver’s braking ability becomes impaired during wintry conditions

Compared to when driving in dry conditions, it takes up to 10 times longer to stop when driving on snowy roads. Snow can be as slippery as ice; that said, it’s advisable to slow down even in light snow.

Also, make sure that there’s enough distance between you and the car in front of you to avoid car crashes in the snow. Winter driving on inclined roadways is a whole different ball game. When going downhill, leaving some space as wide as 3–4 vehicles between you and the car in front of you should be helpful in avoiding a collision.

Source: GEICO

17. 20% of a state’s maintenance budget is spent on winter road maintenance

Annually, states and local agencies spend over 2 billion dollars on snow and ice control operations. These statistics on winter driving could be telling something since commercial vehicle operators and trucking companies still lose about 32.6 billion vehicle hours due to traffic congestion. To put things into perspective, 3.5 billion dollars are lost every year due to weather-related delays.

Source: Federal Highway Administration

18. Colorado drivers with inadequate car equipment for safe winter driving could be fined more than $130

Colorado’s Traction Law is implemented from September 1 to May 3; this requires motorists to have snow tires or tires with mud/snow designation. If you’re going to drive an AWD/4WD car during those months, no need to worry about the fine. Winter driving facts and reports show that AWD/4WD systems are ideal for snowy conditions but choosing them might mean compromising fuel economy due to their large size.

The state also has a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law but is only in effect during severe winter storms. The law requires all vehicles on the road to have chains or an alternative traction device such as AutoSock.

Source: Colorado Department of Transportation

Driving in Icy Road Conditions — What You Need to Do

Plan your route

A few days before your journey, consider the weather, road conditions, and the traffic as these things are often unpredictable during winter months. It’s also smart to let others know about your route and the estimated time of arrival so as not to cause panic if driving in the snow took you longer than expected. However, if it’s really not necessary to go for a winter drive, staying at home may be the smartest thing you can do.

Carry winter driving-related supplies

Driving on slippery roads calls for some essentials. Load up your car with jumper cables, snow shovel, ice scraper, kitty litter, and a blanket to protect yourself from the cold. For longer trips, water, food, medicine, and power bank should be in your emergency kit.

Stay an alert while on the road

High piles of snow can be distracting so don’t text while driving. Being a safe and responsible driver also means driving sober at all times. Remember, both drugs and alcohol can impair one’s coordination skills, perception, and reaction time. The most important bit while you drive: slow down. It’s harder to control a vehicle when driving on snow-covered roads.

Consider making adjustments to your car insurance

Among the winter driving tips here, this one is not a requirement but definitely worth considering. Two possible things you can do: opt for storage coverage or widen your car insurance coverage. The former one means you will drop all your insurance policies except comprehensive coverage, which is only safe if you won’t be driving much during the winter. The latter option means increasing the level of your coverage — adding comprehensive and collision if you only have liability insurance, of course.

Bottom Line

Indeed, the winter season can be quite complicated and frightening to most drivers; our winter statistics already justified this but they are not meant to scare you. With proper and sufficient knowledge about the dangers of driving on slippery roads, taking extra precautions should come out from you naturally. And remember, winter isn’t the only time to stay vigilant. No matter what time, day, or month it is, obey all signs and speed limits, avoid DUI, bring the essentials, and always wear your seatbelts.

 

FAQs

1. What percent of the US gets snow?

According to winter driving statistics in the USA, more than 70% of all roads can get snowy, receiving an average of 13 cm or 5 inches of snowfall every year. All states receive snow, even Florida. However, it could be an odd sight when snowflakes fall in the Sunshine State.

2. Which state has the worst winters?

Recent reports show that Alaska, Wyoming, and Minnesota are the three states with the most brutal winters, according to winter driving accident statistics. Unsurprisingly, Alaska made it to the shortlist since it has the coldest weather and is the nearest state to the north pole. Wyoming, who broke records in February 2019, had a temperature of −20 degrees Fahrenheit and it only took 10 minutes to get frostbite back then. Lastly, Minnesota, sees up to 170 inches of snow during winter and the temperature can drop as low as −60 degrees.  

3. How many car accidents are caused by snow?

Although winter traffic car-driving stats don’t show the number of car accidents on snow, there are about 900 people who get killed in the US every year due to vehicle crashes on snow-covered roads. Meanwhile, icy pavements are also a major threat and are responsible for over 1,000 deaths annually.

4. What is the number one cause of winter accidents?

AccuWeather ranks spin out collisions as the top cause of winter-weather accidents. This is hardly surprising considering how slippery the roads are. The worst part? You might not be able to regain control until you hit something. Other main causes of winter accidents include rear-end collisions and lane drifting.

5. Are there more accidents in winter or summer?

Our winter driving statistics don’t claim that it’s worse driving in the bitter cold months. In fact, some reports say that the risk for a car accident is much higher during the summer than any other season. Also, in summer, it’s likely that there are more teen drivers on the road, road constructions, and excessive heat, all of which contributes to the possibility of car crashes. In the end, we would advise you to drive safely regardless of the weather condition.

 

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