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.
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
Worst Roads in Michigan for Winter Driving
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
Worst Roads in Pennsylvania for Winter Driving
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
|New York City - Queens||7|
Worst Roads in New York for Winter Driving
|Lake Avenue (Rochester, NY)||4|
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
Worst Roads in Ohio for Winter Driving
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
|Round Lake Beach||2|
Worst Roads in Illinois for Winter Driving
|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/District||Average # of annual fatalities per 100 below-freezing days||Rank of annual fatalities per 100 below-freezing days||Total # of fatalities (2013-2017)|
|16 (tie)||North Carolina||15.4||9||49|
|24 (tie)||West Virginia||6.9||24||38|
|28 (tie)||South Dakota||3.9||41||33|
|33 (tie)||New Mexico||4.7||36||26|
|40 (tie)||South Carolina||5.2||33||11|
|49 (tie)||District of Columbia||0.4||50||2|
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
- 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.