According to the Auto Insurance Center, the most dangerous states to drive in during snowy weather are the states bordering the Great Lakes: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Ohio and Wisconsin generally see the highest numbers of fatal winter accidents, followed by Pennsylvania and New York. Several factors make these states more dangerous for drivers during the winter.
In Ohio, about 38% of all fatal accidents involve out-of-state drivers, and in Michigan 34% of fatal accidents involve out-of-state drivers. States like Texas and New Mexico also report high winter weather accident rates. Since these states rarely experience winter weather conditions, when such conditions do appear it can cause problems for drivers unaccustomed to navigating winter weather.
Inexperienced drivers and drivers traveling through unfamiliar areas are inherently more likely to experience accidents in winter weather. Driving during the winter can be difficult for new drivers, and drivers who do not usually have to contend with snow may not know how to properly drive in snowy conditions.
The most commonly cited reason for winter weather accidents is loss of traction or loss of control. Slippery road surfaces can make it difficult for a car’s tires to maintain contact with the road surface. Ice is especially dangerous, but so is snow when it starts to melt. Traffic passing over snow creates slush, and the snow collects dirt, oil, and debris from vehicle tires and the road surface that can also lead to a loss of traction. Dangerous road conditions can also cause a driver to veer off the road into a tree, traffic sign or structures like homes and other buildings.
Drivers have a responsibility to keep up with vehicle maintenance, and this includes preparing for winter driving. Any driver who expects to drive during the winter months should ensure that his or her vehicle is in proper working order. This means topping off vehicle fluids, checking tire tread quality, checking brakes, making sure headlights and taillights work, and clearing vehicles of snow and ice before driving. In some areas it is illegal to drive with an excess of snow or ice on your vehicle as it can dislodge and fall onto other vehicles or pedestrians and cause accidents and/or injuries.
One of the best ways to avoid accidents during winter weather is to drive defensively. This means driving at appropriate speeds for current conditions. In some states, police officers will conduct traffic stops for driving at the posted speed limit if weather conditions are too severe. If the posted speed limit is 55 mph, but snow and poor road conditions exist, it would probably be safer to drive at 45 mph or 40 mph.
Preparing for winter travel is also important. The holiday season means more drivers on the road. If you plan to travel through unfamiliar areas, make sure you find directions before your trip and know where you are going. A passenger may be able to help with navigation, but if you drive alone you should use some type of hands-free GPS navigation device or stop periodically at safe places to check your route. It is also wise to keep an emergency kit in your vehicle in case you experience an accident or ice and snow strand you in cold weather.
Anyone who experiences a car accident due to negligent driving in winter weather should contact a personal injury attorney. Depending on the location and nature of the accident, an attorney can help handle insurance claims and help determine the available legal options. Winter accidents tend to cause severe injuries and significant property damage, and a personal injury attorney can help a client recover his or her losses