What’s More Dangerous to Drive In–Rain or Snow? A New Study Sheds Light

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While neither is without risk, most drivers assume that driving in snow is more dangerous than driving in rain. After all, a build up of snow changes the composition of the road, falling snowflakes make it hard to see, and some cars don’t even start in cold weather.
However, a study by Jerry has found that rain is the most dangerous condition, with mild southern states recording far more fatal winter crashes than snowy northern ones.
Read on to learn more about the study, and we’ll share a few driving tips to help keep you safe this winter season.
A white car driving down a frozen road in the snow.
Most people are afraid to drive in any type of snow.
Jerry’s data team analyzed NHTSA crash data from 2005 through 2019, looking at weather-related accidents in the months of December, January, and February. 
Surprisingly, the three states with the most fatal winter crashes per 100,000 residents are Mississippi (72.57), Alabama (61.08), and Louisiana (56.10), three places which see very little snowfall. In fact, 9 of the 10 states with the most winter crashes are located in the South or Southwest.
Conversely, 7 of the 10 states with the least number of fatal winter crashes are located in the Northeast, a region which gets a lot of snow each year. The three safest states are Massachusetts (16.84 fatal crashes per 100,000 residents), Rhode Island (17.71) and New York (18.34).
If snow is so dangerous, why do mild southern states have up to four times as many fatal winter crashes as their snowy northern counterparts? 

Why does rain cause more fatal crashes than snow?

While northern states get more snow than southern ones, they get less winter precipitation in general. 
Northeastern snow storms come in short, sharp bursts. And once roads have been cleared, it's not unusual for there to be an extended dry period, during which time driving conditions are relatively safe.
Conversely, in the South, it can rain and drizzle for weeks on end—drivers can’t just sit at home and wait it out. 
Additionally, studies show that drivers perceive rain to be less dangerous than snow.
This, “it’s just rain” attitude, causes many people to drive too fast, underestimating the risks associated with hydroplaning and reduced braking distances.
Snow offers a very visual reminder to drivers to slow down and modify driving behaviour in order to avoid skidding or losing control.

Tips for driving during winter months

Whether you live in a state that has a cold and snowy winter climate, or someplace with a mild and rainy one, make sure you know how to drive in bad weather.
During heavy rain: 
  • Reduce your speed to shorten stopping distance, and ensure you have more time to react to a car braking in front of you.
  • If your car begins hydroplaning (gliding over top of surface water), take your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want to go. 
  • When does a big puddle become a pond? If you have to ask this question, find a different route. Driving through a deep puddle can jeopardize your car’s electrical system. 
  • If you have to drive through a big puddle, tap the brake pedal afterwards to help dry the rotors.
  • Stay close to the middle of the lane. Roads often slope downwards at the sides to help with water run-off.
  • Turn your headlights on, but avoid high beams because they can reflect rain droplets, further reducing visibility.
  • Turn on your window defrosters and blast the AC to stop your windows from fogging up.
  • Try to keep your distance from large vehicles, as their tire spray might block your vision.
During snow:
  • Ensure your car is equipped with appropriate tires for the cold and icy weather.
  • Clear ice and snow off your car. Be sure to clear snow off the car’s roof too, as this can slide off when driving, endangering other motorists.
  • Drive slowly, leaving three car lengths between you and the car in front.
  • Avoid slamming on the brakes, as it can cause you to lose traction. 
  • Try not to accelerate or brake into a turn. Modify your speed on approach.
  • Keep your steering wheel as straight as possible.
Controlling a skid:
  • If your front wheels have lost traction, ease off the gas, don’t brake, and steer gently in the direction you want to go. Once the traction on your tires has gripped the road again, slowly accelerate away.
  • If your back wheels are skidding and your car begins to spin, ease off the gas, and gently turn into the direction of the slide. This will stop the skid, whereas turning the steering wheel in the opposite direction will make it worse.
While both rain and snow do cause dangerous driving conditions, a cool head and a well-maintained car can help you stay safe this winter.

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