How Sleet, Hail, and Freezing Rain Can Affect Your Drive

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Sleet, hail, and freezing rain all make driving more challenging, but in different ways. Sleet is freezing rain pellets that can be a nuisance, while hailstones are frozen precipitation about the size of a penny, though they can be larger. Freezing rain is rain that freezes on contact with the ground, making driving extremely dangerous.
Driving without a robust car insurance plan is also extremely dangerous—no matter the weather! Thankfully, Jerry takes the danger out of driving by finding great insurance policies at cut-rate prices.
And to help keep you safe in all kinds of weather, Jerry is breaking down the differences between sleet, hail, and freezing rain.
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Sleet is made up of frozen raindrops that hit the ground as ice pellets.

How sleet forms

During winter storms, sleet is created when snow hits a warm layer of air as it falls through the atmosphere and begins to melt. This partially melted snow then re-freezes as it passes through a layer of cold air just above the surface and hits the ground as ice pellets.

How sleet affects driving

Contrary to popular belief, sleet isn’t as dangerous as it looks or sounds. Sleet often bounces off objects. Instead of posing a severe road hazard, sleet can actually improve a winter drive since the ice pellets act as traction for your car’s tires.


Hail is frozen precipitation made up of frozen water, dust, and other particles that form during summer storms.

How hail forms

Hail begins as soft, snowy particles that form in the sub-freezing layer of air atop summer thunderstorms. As hailstones become heavier, they begin to fall through thunderclouds before strong winds push them back up closer to the top of the storm.
As a hailstone moves back up through a storm cloud into cooler air, cooled water, dust, and other particles freeze onto it. This process repeats until the hailstone has become so heavy that gravity causes it to fall to the ground.
Most hailstones are roughly the size of a penny, though occasionally they resemble a golf ball in size.

How hail affects driving

Depending on the size of the hailstones and the strength of winds during a storm, hail can be very dangerous. If winds are strong enough, hail can fall at an angle or even appear to be moving sideways.
Large pieces of hail can break car windshields and windows, and even cause injuries and death to both people and animals.

Freezing rain

Freezing rain is made up of liquid drops that freeze on contact when they hit the ground.

How freezing rain is formed

Freezing rain begins as snow and falls through a thick layer of warm air as it descends through the atmosphere. These snowflakes melt and fall to the ground as liquid raindrops, but freeze upon hitting the ground.

How freezing rain affects driving

Freezing rain turns roads, highways, and bridges into solid sheets of ice, making driving extremely dangerous. This frozen precipitation can cause tree branches to break and power lines to buckle, both of which can make driving even more hazardous.
Pro Tip Avoid driving during or right after freezing rain events as the roads are particularly treacherous and accidents are more likely.

Why you need car insurance and roadside assistance

A solid car insurance policy will protect your vehicle and other passengers on the road, regardless of the weather.
With Jerry, protecting your car has never been easier. Sign up in just 45 seconds and then Jerry scours the internet for the best car insurance at the cheapest prices. No forms, no phone calls, and no hassles!
And in case you find yourself in trouble on the road, Jerry’s roadside assistance program will help you out. This program offers towing, tire changes, locksmith services, and many more benefits. Best of all, membership costs just $6.99 per month!
Jerry is the best app ever. I entered basic information about myself (took less than 2 minutes) and Jerry did the rest. They were able to find insurance with the exact coverage I had before Jerry at a much cheaper rate!” —Larissa R.


Is sleet smaller than hail?

Yes, sleet is made up of ice pellets. Hail is usually the size of a penny but can grow to measure around 4.5 inches in diameter, sometimes more.

Is freezing rain the same thing as sleet?

No, freezing rain is made up of liquid raindrops that freeze on contact when hitting the ground. This creates a sheet of ice that can make driving very dangerous.
Sleet, on the other hand, hits the ground as ice pellets. Sleet can actually improve traction for cars on the road.
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