Does Your State Have the Worst Winter Drivers?

Ben Guess
Nov 30, 2021 · 4 min read
Key Insights:
  • Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming are the states with the worst winter drivers, ranked by fatal crashes per 100,000 people. 
  • D.C., Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Utah are the places with the best winter drivers.
  • Rain and cloudy weather are most likely to cause a fatal crash, but snow-related fatalities increase almost 600% during the winter months December, January, and February.

Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana have the Worst Winter Drivers. D.C., Rhode Island, and Massachusetts have the Best.

Many Americans are afraid of driving in winter weather. But drivers in certain states have more to fear than others. New research by Jerry shows that winter driving crashes increase depending on where you live. Southern states like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and South Carolina have the highest rate of winter driving fatalities per 100,000 people. Drivers in 
states like Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, as well as the District of Columbia, have the winter driving experience and the winter-ready infrastructure that results in lower winter driving fatality rates. 
The five states with the highest rates of winter driving fatalities per 100,000 people were Mississippi (72.57 crashes), Alabama (61.08), Louisiana (56.10), South Carolina (55.00), and Wyoming (53.69)
Drivers used to mild winters may not be prepared for snow or ice on the road, so a harsh winter in the South makes driving a lot more dangerous. Additionally, these Southern states may not have the infrastructure (such as snow plows or salt trucks) to mitigate unexpected icy roads. This increases the danger of driving in the winter, and can make drivers more likely to crash.
Wyoming has one of the highest highway speed limits at 80 miles per hour. A 2018 study also found that Wyoming residents drive about 6,000 more miles each year than the average U.S. driver. Given more miles driven on average, higher speed limits, and harsh winter weather, it’s no wonder that Wyoming comes in near the top of the list for states with the most winter fatality rates.
The five states with the lowest rates of winter driving fatalities per 100,000 people, on the other hand, were D.C. (12.18), Massachusetts (16.84), Rhode Island (17.71), New York (18.34), and Utah (18.61). Aside from Utah and D.C., all are located in the Northeastern U.S.
Northeastern drivers have experience driving through snow, and are prepared for heavy winter precipitation. This may result in fewer winter driving fatalities in these states. 
Utah and D.C. are not in the Northeastern U.S. However, Utah does experience intense winters and even has a reputation for being a prime skiing destination. D.C. is similar: while it’s too far south to be part of the Northeast, it experiences snowstorms on par with states like New York every few years. In addition, it has a dedicated snow team for issues like plowing and salting roads, which helps keep its drivers safe.

Inclement Weather May Contribute to Winter Driving Fatalities

Rain and clouds are the two most common weather-related causes of winter driving fatalities. While snow-related driving fatalities did unsurprisingly increase during the winter months, rain- and cloud-related fatalities also spiked in early winter. Rain- and cloud-related fatalities increased 38% (866 fatalities per month) and 45% (818 fatalities per month) respectively in December compared to November. In other months, rain- and cloud-related fatalities stay around 599 and 618 fatalities on average.
In the states with the highest fatality rates per 100,000 people, most accidents were caused by rain or clouds, rather than snow. This makes sense given that all the Southern states included are coastal. In coastal states, heavy storms frequently move inland from the sea. Higher chances of rainy and cloudy weather therefore contribute to the high number of accidents per 100,000 people. Of the states with the highest fatality rates, Wyoming was the only one where snow caused the most accidents on average. 

Conclusion

This winter, make sure you are prepared for inclement weather. If you’re not comfortable driving in snow, designate another driver or wait till the next day to drive. If you expect snow where you live, look into snow tires or chains; if rain is common where you are, ensure that your windshield wipers are functioning properly. 
Staying safe on the road is the best way to ensure that you can enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. So check the weather and be prepared before you drive!

Methodology: 

This study used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2005-2019. The study analyzed fatal crash data over the winter months of December, January, and February. December 1st is the start of the meteorological season of winter, as defined by National Geographic.

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