The Deadliest States For Winter Driving

From 2013 to 2017, there were 2,718 fatalities that resulted from winter weather-related car crashes, as caused by snow, sleet or ice on U.S. roadways. However, as winters are harsher in some regions, there is a handful of states that account for a vast majority of these winter driving deaths. We analyzed the last five years' worth of data and found that hazardous conditions in the five worst states—Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and Illinois—accounted for 36% of winter weather-related driving fatalities.

Heat map of the states with the highest number of fatalities caused by car accidents that occured in snow, freezing rain, sleet or hail

1. Michigan

282 winter-driving fatalities

Michigan is by far the state with the highest number of winter weather-related driving fatalities. Between 2013 and 2017, there were 282 fatalities in winter weather-related accidents, which is 85 more fatalities than the second-highest state. This may seem unsurprising, considering the state is known for its harsh winters. However, even when you account for the number days the temperature drops to freezing or below, Michigan ranks as the second worst state for winter weather driving accidents—the state averages 37 fatalities per 100 below-freezing days each year.

Worst Cities in Michigan for Winter Driving

CityFatalities
Detroit11
Oshtemo4
Lansing3
Pontiac3
Romulus3

Worst Roads in Michigan for Winter Driving

RoadFatalities
I-9415
I-7512
I-9611
US-317
US-417

2. Pennsylvania

197 winter-driving fatalities

With an average of nearly 40 winter-driving deaths per year, Pennsylvania is the second-deadliest state for winter drivers. Pittsburgh had six fatalities resulting from winter weather-related accidents, and Philadelphia—the largest city by population—had four. The deadliest road for winter driving occurred on I-80, which is a major thoroughfare running across the length of the state. It connects New York and Ohio—the states with the next two highest winter driving fatality rates.

Worst Cities in Pennsylvania for Winter Driving

CityFatalities
Pittsburgh6
Philadelphia4
Lewistown2
McClure2
Scranton2

Worst Roads in Pennsylvania for Winter Driving

RoadFatalities
I-8012
I-786
US-116
US-66
I-794

3. New York

183 winter-driving fatalities

With 183 winter weather-related driving fatalities from 2013 to 2017, New York is the third-worst state in U.S. for winter-driving fatalities. However, it's not all bad news for New Yorkers, as the number of winter-driving deaths per year has rapidly declined—dropping from 53 to 24 during the time frame 2013 to 2017. The New York City borough of Queens had the most winter-driving fatalities of any municipality in the state, with seven total deaths from 2013 to 2017. That's the same number of fatalities as in the other four boroughs combined during this time period.

Worst Cities in New York for Winter Driving

CityFatalities
New York City - Queens7
Circleville5
Rochester5
Brookhaven4
Fallsburg4

Worst Roads in New York for Winter Driving

RoadFatalities
SR-1049
SR-57
I-906
US-205
Lake Avenue (Rochester, NY)4

4. Ohio

172 winter-driving fatalities

Ohio has been one of the most dangerous states for driving in winter weather in recent years—registering the second most deaths of any state in 2017. In the past five years, there were 172 winter-driving fatalities in Ohio—37 more than there were in Illinois, which had the next most. In terms of roads, I-71—which connects major cities Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati—saw the most winter driving deaths, with seven fatalities occurring along the route during the time period we surveyed.

Worst Cities in Ohio for Winter Driving

CityFatalities
Columbus7
Akron4
Youngstown4
Austintown2
Cambridge2

Worst Roads in Ohio for Winter Driving

RoadFatalities
I-717
I-706
I-806
CR-673
I-763

5. Illinois

135 winter-driving fatalities

With an average of 27 winter-driving fatalities per year for the time period 2013 to 2017, Illinois ranked as the fifth deadliest state for winter driving in the U.S. Chicago was the single biggest contributor to the number of fatalities. Furthermore, all of the cities that logged more than one winter-driving accident in Illinois were located in the greater Chicago area. In Cook County alone (which makes up a large part of the Chicago area), there were 30 fatalities during the time period we surveyed, which is more than there were in 18 states—including New Mexico, Arkansas and California.

Worst Cities in Illinois for Winter Driving

CityFatalities
Chicago18
Homer Glen2
Hometown2
Round Lake Beach2
Sugar Grove2

Worst Roads in Illinois for Winter Driving

RoadFatalities
I-555
I-574
I-393
I-743
Lake Street (Chicago)3


Winter Driving Tips

Driving in winter weather is certainly dangerous, and for many Americans, it is an unavoidable part of daily life for a good portion of the year. Because of this, it is important to make sure you, your vehicle and even your auto insurance coverage are prepared for the snowy and icy roads.

Drive carefully: When the weather gets nasty, one of the best ways to keep yourself safe is to adjust your driving habits. Avoid behaviors that increase the risk of getting into an accident, such as speeding, texting while driving and impaired driving. Not only is this good advice from a safety standpoint, but from a financial standpoint as well. Auto insurance rates could increase by as much as 33% after an at-fault accident. Note that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recommends reducing your normal driving speed by one-half in snowy conditions.

Prepare your vehicle: Making sure your vehicle is prepared could be the difference between life and death this winter. Investing in a good set of snow tires could be well worth the investment if it means avoiding getting into an accident. Additionally, some insurers may offer you a discount for safety equipment, such as winter tires, which can help offset the cost. Additional tips include making sure your vehicle is properly maintained before the winter starts (check the battery, lights and fluids) and storing water and flares in your car in case you are stranded.

Make sure your insurance is ready for the winter: If you have only basic liability coverage, you could be on the hook for damage to your car caused by adverse weather, such as hail or falling tree branches. To be covered under these circumstances, you'll need to have comprehensive coverage. Also consider adding emergency roadside assistance coverage, which covers the cost of extrication if you slide your car into a ditch.

Full List of Winter-Driving Fatalities by State

Rank of total fatalities (2013-2017)

State/DistrictAverage # of annual fatalities per 100 below-freezing daysRank of annual fatalities per 100 below-freezing daysTotal # of fatalities (2013-2017)
1Michigan37.02282
2Pennsylvania34.23197
3New York27.95183
4Ohio28.34172
5Illinois21.16135
6Wisconsin17.78132
7 (tie)Indiana20.97123
7 (tie)Minnesota14.110123
9Colorado11.31495
10Texas48.8188
11Iowa8.72064
12Kentucky12.81255
13New Jersey10.71753
14Virginia13.61152
15Nebraska6.32750
16 (tie)Wyoming5.43049
16 (tie)Kansas7.72249
16 (tie)Washington11.31549
16 (tie)North Carolina15.4949
20 (tie)Montana5.23245
20 (tie)Tennessee12.21345
22 (tie)Maine5.03542
22 (tie)Oklahoma11.11642
24 (tie)West Virginia6.92438
24 (tie)Oregon9.31838
26North Dakota3.94036
27Missouri6.82535
28 (tie)South Dakota3.94133
28 (tie)Utah5.43133
28 (tie)Massachusetts5.52933
31Maryland6.82632
32New Hampshire3.04231
33 (tie)Idaho4.23826
33 (tie)New Mexico4.73626
35Alaska2.44424
36 (tie)Arkansas7.22323
36 (tie)Connecticut4.03923
38Vermont2.14616
39California8.62112
40 (tie)South Carolina5.23311
40 (tie)Georgia5.23411
42 (tie)Alabama4.63710
42 (tie)Arizona2.24510
44 (tie)Louisiana9.2199
44 (tie)Nevada1.1499
46Mississippi2.9438
47Rhode Island1.2487
48Delaware1.2476
49 (tie)District of Columbia0.4502
49 (tie)Florida5.5282
51HawaiiNANA0


Methodology

We analyzed the total number of fatalities caused by winter-driving crashes from 2013 to 2017, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. We considered crashes that occurred under the following atmospheric conditions to be winter weather-related crashes:

  • Sleet or hail
  • Snow
  • Blowing snow
  • Freezing rain or drizzle

Data on the average annual number of days where the temperature dropped below freezing was gathered from Comparative Climatic Data tables, maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Specifically, we averaged the mean number of days with a minimum temperature of 32ºF or less across the major U.S. weather observing stations in each state.

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