Do Harsh Winters Make East-Coast Drivers Safer Drivers?

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Alex Healey
Updated on Apr 27, 2022 · 3 min read
Despite notoriously harsh winter conditions, a study by
Jerry’s data team
shows that Northeastern states have the fewest fatal winter crashes.
We know that snow and ice elevate the risk of getting into an accident. But have bad winters made east coasters better drivers, or are there other reasons behind this trend?
Read on to learn more, and if you are looking for
cheap car insurance
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Every year East Coast drivers endure months of freezing winter weather.

What does the winter driving study show?

Jerry used crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to calculate the number of fatal winter crashes—per capita—in each state.
Surprisingly, the most dangerous states for winter driving are in the South, where relatively mild temperatures prevail.
The safest states with the fewest fatal crashes per 100,000 residents are:
  1. District of Columbia: 12.18
  2. Massachusetts: 16.84
  3. Rhode Island: 17.71
  4. New York: 18.34
  5. Utah: 18.61
  6. Minnesota: 20.18
  7. Washington: 20.84
  8. New Jersey: 22.45
  9. Connecticut: 23.08
  10. New Hampshire: 23.53
Incredibly, 7 of the 10 places listed here are in the Northeast, one of the snowiest regions in the country.
The only non-Northeastern states are Minnesota, Utah, and Washington, which also experience harsh and snowy winters.

Why are snowy winters not contributing to more fatal accidents?

We know that driving in snow is dangerous. In fact, the study shows that snow accounts for an additional 600 fatal crashes during the winter months. Why then, are snowiest states also some of the safest for winter driving?
One assumption is that drivers in these regions have learned to adapt to the conditions. Through experience they have become safer drivers, unlike people from warm places who don’t know how to drive in snow.
There may be some truth to this. Certainly, people in the Northeast are better prepared for winter driving conditions, and more likely to use
winter tires
than those from milder climates.
Another reason for the Northeast’s low number of fatal winter crashes is it’s relatively dry climate. Yes, winter storms are fierce, but December through February also sees extended spells of dry weather. Once the roads have been cleared, driving conditions are generally good.
Additionally, the region is one of the most densely populated in the country. This means that emergency services can get to the scene of an accident quickly, and there is normally a hospital located nearby. This ability to quickly assist and treat injured motorists saves lives.
Northeastern residents can also be grateful for good highway infrastructure. Roads are generally well-maintained, especially when compared to those in rural southern states.

Winter driving tips

Follow these simple
driving tips
to stay safe on the road this winter:
  1. Prepare your vehicle for winter. If you live in an area where winter temperatures regularly dip below 40, invest in a set of winter tires to improve traction and keep you safe.
  2. Drive slowly and smoothly. Driving too quickly is the main cause of winter crashes. Don’t make any abrupt turns or stops.
  3. Give other drivers space. Tailgating is dangerous in any weather, but stopping takes much longer on icy roads. Leave at least three car lengths between you and the car in front. 
  4. Don’t panic if you skid. If your car begins to slide, remove your foot from the pedal, and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. Attempt a gradual acceleration once your car is back under control.
Turn your lights on. Winter in the northern hemisphere is dark. Keep your headlights on at all times to increase visibility.

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