Floods and tornadoes may get all the headlines, but neither is the deadliest weather hazard. It’s driving in winter weather.
In 2016, floods and tornadoes were responsible for a combined 144 weather-related fatalities across the US.¹ That same year, more than 2,800 lives were lost due to snow and rain on American roads.² Winter road conditions like sleet, ice, snow, and freezing rain make getting behind the wheel a risky move.
With winter weather lurking in the wings it’s only a matter of time before the 2017 winter crash numbers start to climb. To better understand the risks—and pinpoint the roads to avoid when Jack Frost gets up to his mischief—we’ve identified the ten most dangerous states for both rain and snow driving.
Best and Worst States for Driving in Rain
Top 10 Most Dangerous States for Driving in the Rain
Crashes in Rain
Chances of Being in a Crash, per 100,000
Best and Worst States for Driving in Snow
Top 10 Most Dangerous States for Snow Driving
Crashes in Snow
Chances of Being in a Crash, per 100.000
Here’s a look at some of our findings:
There are significantly more accidents in rain than snow—nearly five times as many. Crashes in rainy conditions numbered 2,145 in 2016, and snowy conditions saw 445 crashes.
In 2016 there were 2,368 fatalities from crashes in rain and just 482 from snow-related crashes.
Only six states had more than twenty snow-related crashes, while thirty-one states saw twenty crashes or more due to rain.
The only state that made both of our lists was Maine. The Pine Tree State came in as the eighth most dangerous state for rain driving, and fifth for driving in the snow.
Just because there’s a lot of rain in your state, it doesn’t mean you have more crashes. Only two of the most dangerous states for rain driving are also in the top five states for the most rainfall: Alabama and Mississippi.
Hawaii has the most rain, but only ranks thirty-ninth for rain-related crashes. The Aloha State reported eleven crashes due to rain last year.
October is the worst month for both rain- and snow-related crashes.
Only one of the ten most dangerous snow states was also in the top ten for total number of snow-related crashes: Michigan. This wintry state had the highest number of snow crashes (59) and resulting fatalities (72).
Rhode Island roads are the safest when it comes to driving in both rain and snow. Last year there were zero snow-related crashes and just two in rainy conditions.
Three of the most dangerous states for rain driving also land in the top ten for total numbers of crashes and fatalities:
North Carolina: 112 crashes, 117 fatalities
Kentucky: 67 crashes, 71 fatalities
Alabama: 64 crashes, 70 fatalities
What Are Your Chances of Being in a Weather-Related Crash?
Depending on the state you live in, your odds of ending up in a tailspin on slippery roads can vary greatly.
If you see your state in the tables above, that means you’re at the top of the list, but folks in South Dakota, Nevada, and Rhode Island can relax when they hit the road during a rainstorm. Residents in those states have a less than 0.20 chance in 100,000 of ending up in a rainy road crash.
For snow, the safest states are Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Hawaii, and Rhode Island—where there were zero rain- or snow-related crashes in 2016. Although most of those states see nary a snowflake, Rhode Island logs an average of thirty-three inches of the fluffy stuff every year.
Regardless of weather, your odds of dying in a car crash are one in 114.³ Obviously winter weather impacts those chances, but you don’t have to trade in your car for snow shoes. There are some simple things you can do to improve your odds on treacherous roads.
Check the tires, wipers, fluids, lights, and indicators—make sure they’re in working order and ready for wet, snowy, icy, or slushy roads.
Always clear ice and snow completely before putting your car into “Drive.”
Buckle up (it bears repeating!).
Turn on lights for safety—visibility can be your best friend in a storm.
Always use the indicators when changing lanes, turning, etc.
Take it easy—there’s no prize for first place on an icy road.
Stay about twenty seconds behind other cars in case you have to stop suddenly.
Don’t slam on the brakes.
If you do slide, turn INTO the direction of the slide.
Getting behind the wheel isn’t always dangerous, but adverse weather can turn a quick trip to the store into a nightmare. Whether or not your state ranks as one of the most dangerous for rain and snow driving, make sure you’re prepared to stay safe on the road this winter.
SafeWise analyzed the number of fatal car crashes due to rain and snow in each state using the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2016 crash data. From there, we calculated the likelihood of inclement weather accidents occurring per 100,000 people in each state.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more