20 Facts About Driving in Bad Weather (2021 Report)
Our study to reveal facts about driving in bad weather shows that wet pavement accounts for 70% of all weather-related accidents, including 76% of all weather-related traffic deaths. Fog is the most dangerous weather condition to drive in with 2 fatal crash deaths for every 1 million residents. In addition to causing car accidents and traffic deaths, adverse weather conditions lead to commuter delays and traffic jams.
UPDATED: May 13, 2021
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- Hazardous weather conditions cause over one million crashes each year
- Those one million crashes lead to over 418,000 injuries and 5,000 deaths
- Nevada is the safest state overall for driving in bad weather
- West Virginia is the most dangerous state for driving in bad weather
Driving in bad weather can be frightening. The scary coast of a hydroplane where you have no control of the vehicle, the tail spinning after hitting an ice patch, the layered fog that requires you to squint and lean closer towards the windshield all make for perilous conditions. But how much so?
We dive deep into facts about driving in bad weather in this article, discussing everything from which weather condition is the most dangerous to which states rank the worst for different types of weather conditions.
We have a metric ton of driving in bad weather statistics along with answers to questions like, “What should you do when driving in bad weather?”
Our frequently asked questions section covers driving in adverse conditions as well, and we include a section for driving in bad weather tips.
For the state rankings, check out the map at the top of the page. It’s interactive, so hover your cursor (if you’re on a laptop or desktop) or press down with your finger (if you’re on a mobile device) to see a state’s specific statistics.
Other topics included in this article are how these weather conditions affect traffic and what state and local governments do to try to and stop the inevitable result of these scary situations: fatal crashes.
If you’re on this page, you’re likely looking for car insurance as well. It can be difficult to decide on a car insurance company as there are so many, some recognized nationally and some locally. So we put together a guide to the best car insurance companies for you to provide you with more information about which car insurance company may suit you the best.
Now, back to the article. Driving in bad weather can be a challenge. Let’s begin.
20 Startling Facts About Driving in Bad Weather
From rain to snow to sleet to fog, here are 20 startling facts about driving in bad weather. Make sure your brakes are checked and all your lights are functioning. This will be a trip down an unpleasant lane.
#1 – 21% of all crashes involve hazardous weather conditions
There are over 5,891,000 crashes every year and approximately 21% of them (or over 1 million) involve hazardous weather conditions. Wet pavement and rain lead the way, followed by all things winter — snow or sleet, icy pavement, snowy or slushy pavement. Fog is the weather condition that causes the fewest accidents.
#2 – Wet pavement accounts for 70% of all weather-related crashes
Of the 1.2 million weather-related crashes that happen each year, 70% or over 860,000 are caused by wet pavement. Some of the risks associated with wet pavement are hydroplaning or not being able to stop quickly.
#3 – Rain results in over 550,000 crashes per year
Rain is the second-leading cause of weather-related accidents, resulting in over half a million car accidents per year and over 2,400 traffic deaths. Aside from the sheer number of crashes and deaths, rain presents unique challenges that drivers struggle with: lowered visibility, slippery surfaces, and flooded roads.
#4 – Snow and sleet cause over 200,000 crashes per year
Snow or sleet, perhaps because they are rarer than wet pavements or rain, come in as the third-leading cause of weather-related accidents. They result in over 200,000 car wrecks and 650 traffic deaths. Visibility is a huge concern in snowstorms and windshields that become iced over can completely blind a driver.
#5 – Icy pavement leads to over 150,000 crashes and 521 traffic deaths annually
Icy pavements are the fourth-leading cause of weather-related accidents. The dangers of icy pavements are similar to wet pavements but far more deadly. A driver going too quickly or making a quick maneuver on icy pavement can lead to loss of control of the vehicle or a spin out. This increases the danger for all other nearby drivers.
As you can see in our article about the worst freeway accidents of all time, heavy snow and icy pavement often play a role in major, deadly crashes.
#6 – Fog was the deadliest of all weather conditions during our study period
Surprisingly, however, fog was the deadliest of all weather conditions, even though it caused the fewest accidents. Fog causes an average of over 25,000 crashes per year that led to over 460 deaths. This means that you have a 2% chance of dying in a fog-related accident. No other weather condition ranked above 1%.
#7 – Rain is the second-deadliest weather condition
Rain is the second-deadliest weather condition after fog. A person involved in a rain-related accident has a 0.5% chance of dying.
#8 – Snowy or slushy pavement is the least-deadly weather condition
Although snowy or slushy pavement causes 186,076 accidents per year, a person involved in one has just a 0.3% chance of dying. A reason for this may be the slower speeds of traffic during these conditions. Still, snow can be one of the tougher weather conditions to drive in, as this article about the top 20 snow driving fails compilation shows.
#9 – Wyoming is the worst state for snow-related traffic deaths
Out of all states, Wyoming was the worst state for snow-related fatal crashes with 34 per 1 million residents. This might be a result of its geography as the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming, resulting in dangerous driving terrains.
#10 – West Virginia is the worst state for rain-related traffic deaths
West Virginia has the dubious honor of being the worst state for rain-related fatal crashes with 35 per 1 million people. Like Wyoming, West Virginia has difficult-to-navigate terrain and also ranks as one of the worst states for driving infrastructure.
#11 – 9 of the 10 worst states for rain-related fatal crashes are in the South
The South, which typically has some of the most dangerous states to drive in, dominates the worst states for rain-related fatal crashes with nine out of the worst 10. Those nine states are in ascending order West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
#12 – 4 of the 5 worst states for snow-related fatal crashes are in the West
Perhaps not surprisingly, four of the five worst states for snow-related fatal crashes are in the West. They are Wyoming, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Alaska.
#13 – State and local agencies spend over $2.3 billion annually on winter control
State and local agencies spend billions on winter control operations every year. The most common operations involve snow plows and salt trucks.
#14 – The Southeast experiences the most climate extremes
According to weather and temperature indexes, the Southeast sees the most climate extremes. During the summer, temperatures can rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and states can experience snow during the winter.
Climate extremes can severely affect the difficulty of driving and this includes the turning of the seasons. Check out our autumn safe driving article for tips to keep you safe.
#15 – There are 544 million vehicle-hour delays due to weather conditions each year
Weather conditions don’t just cause traffic deaths. Every year, well over 500 million vehicle hours are lost due to weather delays. Part of this is due to the natural slowing down of traffic during dangerous weather conditions. Another part is due to wrecks which can cause logjams that last for miles and take hours to clear.
#16 – Nevada experiences the fewest fatal weather-related crashes per year
Nevada ranks the best out of all states with the fewest fatal crashes. It is the most arid state in the country with the least precipitation.
#17 – West Virginia ranks worst out of all states for weather-related fatal crashes
West Virginia, which we’ve already seen ranks worst for rain-related fatal crashes, ranks worst for all weather-related crashes. A tough to navigate mountainous terrain and poor-conditioned roads likely contribute to this.
#18 – Vermont receives the most snowfall with 89 inches per year
It ranked as the 4th-worst state for snow and sleet-related fatal crashes.
#19 – Hawaii gets the least snow per year at a consistent zero inches
Hawaii is the exact opposite, seeing zero inches of snowfall each year. This aligns with Hawaii’s peak tourist season, which comes between December and April where snowfalls are much more common in the Northern parts of the United States.
#20 – Freeway speeds are often reduced up to 40% in heavy snow
Freeway speeds slow down considerably when there is heavy snow. Drivers in these situations may be cautious due to limited visibility and a decreased control over their vehicle. This also contributes to traffic delays.
5 Tips for Driving in Bad Weather
You may be fearful of driving in bad weather because it is certainly true that they cause a high number of accidents and even traffic deaths. For that reason, we’ve put together five tips to apply when you’re driving in bad weather. You can also check out our 2021 guide about how to drive safely in bad weather for more information.
#1 – Keep Your Tires Inflated
Winter weather can reduce the pressure in your tires, increasing the likelihood of an accident. The reason is that your tires, with less pressure, will have a lessened grip on the road. Combined with wet pavement or icy pavement, this can lead to a disaster.
#2 – Slow Down & Keep Distance
When driving in bad weather, slowing down is an effective way to prevent an accident. Driving slower gives you more time to respond, which is crucial for two reasons. First, if the pavement is wet or covered in snow, your car will likely need more time to stop in the first place. Second, in these conditions, you might have visibility issues. Driving slower creates more time to respond to a potentially dangerous situation.
This goes hand-in-hand with keeping a farther distance between you and other cars during inclement weather. This enables you to mitigate mistakes that occur with low visibility or hazardous road conditions.
#3 – Don’t Neglect Regular Car Maintenance
It’s easy to let regular car maintenance go, and a good portion of car owners do. But procrastinating can lead to serious consequences, especially in bad weather. One obvious example is windshield wipers. When driving during a perfect day in the sunlight, they have little use.
But when the rain is pouring or your windshield is icing up, windshield wipers play a crucial role in keeping your windshield clear. If your windshield is not clear, your chances of an accident are higher.
#4 – Obey Proper Rules
There are certain rules, both stated and not-stated, that come with driving in bad weather. For instance, never use your high beams in foggy weather. It’ll cause the moisture in the fog to reflect back at you, hurting your visibility.
If the rain is pouring or the snow is falling to the point where it’s extremely hard to see, turning on your hazards can alert other drivers to your presence and the weather conditions if they haven’t reached them.
#5 – Use Weather-Specific Devices
There are certain tools you can use depending on different weather circumstances. The most obvious are chains for your tires if you live in an area where it snows often. This can give you increased traction. Receiving weather alerts and avoiding driving during major storms might be the safest route of all.
Full State Rankings for Snow & Rain Fatal Crashes
If we haven’t covered your state so far, you might be anxious to find out where it stands. The following table shows the ranking of all 50 states (+ D.C.) for the “snow” weather condition. The 1st ranking is worst here.
|Rank||State||Fatal Crashes||Registered Drivers||Fatal Crashes per 1M Drivers|
|35 (tie)||North Carolina||7||7,509,231||0.9|
|37 (tie)||New Jersey||5||6,342,876||0.8|
|44 (tie)||District of Columbia||0||527,731||0.0|
|44 (tie)||Rhode Island||0||756,966||0.0|
As you can see, four out of the five worst states for snow and sleet fatal crashes are in the West, while there are six states (+ D.C.) that don’t have a single fatal crash related to snow.
In the next table, you can see all 50 states and D.C. ranked by the “rain” category. As you can imagine, it looks very different than the ranking of the states for “snow.” Again, 1st is worst.
|Rank||State||Fatal Crashes||Registered Drivers||Fatal Crashes Per 1M Drivers|
|38 (tie)||New Hampshire||8||1,161,665||6.9|
|38 (tie)||New Mexico||10||1,458,433||6.9|
|42||District of Columbia||3||527,731||5.8|
Nine of the top 10 states come from the South, which we’ve seen has some of the most volatile climate extremes in the country. North Dakota ranks best overall and is also one of the most dry states in America.
Frequently Asked Questions: Driving in Adverse Weather
Now that we’ve covered the 20 facts about driving in bad weather and five tips for driving safer in inclement weather, let’s get to your frequently asked questions. They include:
- What do you do when driving in bad weather?
- What speed should you drive in bad weather?
- What happens if you take a risk while driving?
Scroll down for the answers to those questions and many more.
#1 – Is it best to drive in poor weather conditions?
That is a question only you can decide. Driving in poor weather increases your chances of an accident and may require advanced driving techniques like how to correct a slide on icy roads.
#2 – What do you do when driving in bad weather?
The first major principle is to slow down. This gives you increased time to react to situations, combats issues with visibility, and possibly lessens the damage if an accident were to occur, depending on the circumstances.
#3 – How can weather affect your driving?
Weather affects numerous factors in your driving. Bad weather often limits your visibility, forcing you to drive slower so that you can have more time to react to dangerous situations. It can also lead to the need for advanced driving techniques like what to do when you hydroplane or when your car starts drifting on icy roads.
#4 – How should you change your driving when driving in bad weather?
Driving slower, less aggressively, putting on hazards, and being super aware are all changes you might make when driving in bad weather.
#5 – What speed should you drive in bad weather?
This depends on the type of road and how bad the weather actually is. As we’ve seen, heavy snow can decrease the speed of traffic by 40% but heavy rain can also decrease traffic speed significantly. It all comes down to what speed you feel most comfortable driving in and how much visibility you have.
#6 – When getting ready to drive what should you do?
One of the most important factors in getting ready to drive in bad weather is to check the level of pressure in your tires. Colder weather often lowers the pressure in your tires, which reduces their ability to hold to the road. This causes problems in both snowy and rainy weather.
#7 – How do you drive safely in bad weather?
Slow down, follow unspoken rules like putting on your hazards when visibility is severely lessened, don’t take any unnecessary risks, educate yourself about how to drive in particular circumstances (like driving in heavy snow), and being aware that certain types of structures can increase risk (like bridges, which can become icy well-before regular roads).
#8 – What happens when you take a risk while driving?
When you take a risk while driving, you put yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road in danger. This can result in an accident and a major hit to your pocketbook or at worst, traffic deaths.
Methodology: Ranking All States by Bad Weather Fatal Crashes
For this report, our researchers focused specifically on weather-related accidents and how states ranked in particular with snowy or rain conditions.
To do this, our experts analyzed the number of fatal crashes in 2017 and divided them by the number of registered drivers. Both numbers were from averages. The source for both statistics was the Federal Highway Administration, with the data release date December 2018.
From these calculations, our researchers discovered which states had the highest rates of fatal crashes per snowy or rain conditions per capita. In this case, our per capita number was one million residents.