5 Most Dangerous States For Winter Driving

WRITTEN BY: Julia Matseikovich

UPDATED: MAY 24, 2023 | 3 MIN READ

Hurricanes and tornadoes always seem to get the most attention in the news, but winter is the deadliest weather for driving. In 2016, there were 144 weather-related fatalities due to floods and tornadoes. In the same year, more than 2,800 fatalities happened due to rain and snow on American roads.

Winter road conditions like ice, sleet, freezing rain, and snow make getting behind the wheel dangerous. With winter weather right around the corner, it’s a good idea to understand your risk. We’re going to walk you through the worst states to drive in during winter.

Winter driving safety tips that can save your life

There are a few things that you’re able to do to prepare your vehicle for winter road conditions before the snow, sleet, and icy roads hit your area.

Prepare your car for winter

You don’t want your car breaking down during freezing temperatures. It’s important to make sure you’re regularly getting your vehicle checked for worn hoses, leaks, and other maintenance items. Your lights, brakes, heater, and defroster should all be in tip-top condition. You also might want to consider getting snow tires on your vehicle.

Here are some tips on how to prepare your car for winter:

  • Get an oil change. Your car’s oil will need to be changed more often in the winter, so it’s important to get an oil change before the cold weather hits.
  • Check your tire pressure. Tire pressure can drop in the cold, so checking your tire pressure regularly and adding air as needed is important.
  • Change your windshield wipers. Winter wipers are designed to work in cold weather and will help to keep your windshield clear of snow and ice.
  • Check your battery. A car battery can lose power in the cold, so it’s important to have your battery tested before the winter months.
  • Inspect your brakes. Brakes can wear down faster in the winter, so it’s important to have them inspected before the cold weather hits.

Verify your auto insurance

You want to ensure that you have the best auto insurance policy to protect your vehicle in case of a weather-related accident. Some accidents are unavoidable even when you’re careful. Cars regularly collide due to snowy conditions and icy roads. Call your insurance provider to verify your winter weather coverage. Compare car insurance quotes to ensure you’re getting the best rate possible.

Put an emergency kit in your car

It is important to tailor your emergency kit to your specific needs and circumstances. For example, if you live in a rural area, you may want to include a satellite phone or a CB radio in your kit. If you have young children or pets, you will need to include items that are specifically for them.

It is also a good idea to update your emergency kit regularly. As your needs change, so should the contents of your kit.

Here are some items that should go in a winter emergency car kit:

  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Jumper cables
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Water
  • Non-perishable food
  • Shovel
  • Sand or cat litter
  • Ice scraper
  • Jack and lug wrench
  • Tire chains
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Road flares
  • Signal mirror
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Cell phone charger
  • Cash
  • Personal identification
  • Medications
  • Pet supplies

Most dangerous states for winter driving

The most dangerous states for winter driving and icy conditions are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, New York, and Illinois. Based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s fatality analysis reporting system data, these five states account for 36% of winter driving total fatalities.


With 197 total fatalities from winter driving, Pennsylvania is the second-deadliest state due to nearly 40 winter driving deaths a year. The deadliest road for fatal crashes occurred on I-80, a major thoroughfare that runs across the entire state. It connects New York and Ohio, two states on our list for the highest winter driving fatality rates.


With 172 total fatalities from winter driving, Ohio is one of the most dangerous states. The deadliest road for fatal crashes occurred on I-71, which connects major cities Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. The highway saw seven fatalities occurring along the route in 2017.


With a whopping 282 winter driving fatalities, Michigan has the highest number of winter weather-related fatal crashes. During four years, there were 282 deaths due to bad weather, 85 more fatalities than the second-highest state.

New York

With 183 winter month fatalities, New York is the third worst state for driving fatalities. Over the years, winter driving deaths have declined in New York, dropping from 53 to 24 from 2013 to 2017. Queens had the most driving fatalities due to weather conditions of any municipality in the state, with seven total fatalities.


With 135 winter driving fatalities, Illinois has, on average, 27 total fatalities per year between 2013 to 2017. Chicago was the biggest contributor to the number of deaths due to weather conditions. In Cook County, there were 30 fatalities during the same time period, which is more than there were in 18 states, including Arkansas, California, and New Mexico.

Essential items to keep in your car

Some essential items to have in your car to prepare for winter. Practicing travel safety means keeping emergency supplies in the trunk of your vehicle. These are some of the items you should have in your car:

  • Chains
  • Ice scraper
  • Spare tire
  • Snow shovel
  • Medications
  • Blanket
  • Jumper cables
  • Cell phone charger
  • Sand or kitty litter
  • Water
  • Flashlight
  • Food/snacks

It depends entirely on the state that you live in. If you’re in one of the states with the deadliest driving conditions, your chances are much higher. Residents in states such as Nevada, South Dakota, and Rhode Island have less than a 0.20 chance in 100,000 of ending up in a snow crash.


Which three locations are the most dangerous during winter driving?

Any road is dangerous during icy road conditions. Most accidents occur in the following areas: Overpasses, bridges, and elevated roadways. Elevated roadways often collect ice and snow long before the rest of the roads.

What is the most dangerous season to drive in?

You might be surprised that summer is the most dangerous driving season. It’s due to the millions of families on road trips, friends at parties (involving alcohol), and teens out of school and on the road. Many accidents happen during the holidays, which is why Ride programs pop up. More accidents occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day than during any other time of the year.  

What is the deadliest day of the year to drive?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the deadliest day of the year to drive is July 4th. In 2022, there were approximately 462 people in the U.S. who died in traffic fatalities on July 4th. Those traffic fatalities are 41% alcohol-related.

What are the three most dangerous driving conditions?

The three most dangerous driving conditions are:

  • Heavy rainfall: Rain can make the roads slippery and reduce visibility, making it difficult to control your vehicle.
  • Black ice: Black ice is a thin layer of ice that’s difficult to see. It can form on roads that are wet or damp, and it can cause your vehicle to skid or lose control.
  • Fog: Fog can reduce visibility to a few feet, making it difficult to see other vehicles or obstacles on the road.

What are the three deadliest states in winter driving?

The three deadliest states in winter driving are:

  1. Michigan
  2. New York
  3. Pennsylvania

These states are all located in the northeastern United States, which is a region that experiences harsh winters with heavy snowfall and icy roads. As a result, these states have a high number of winter driving fatalities.

What are the top three risks of winter driving?

The top three risks of winter driving are:

  1. Black ice: Black ice is a thin, clear coating of ice that forms on roads, sidewalks, and other surfaces. It is difficult to see, and it can cause cars to skid or lose control. Black ice is most common on bridges, overpasses, and shady areas. It can also form on roads that are wet or damp, especially when the temperature is below freezing.
  2. Slippery roads: Snow and ice can make the roads slippery, which can make it difficult to control your vehicle.
  3. Reduced visibility: Snow, fog, and rain can reduce visibility, making it difficult to see other vehicles or obstacles on the road.

How to purchase car insurance for winter driving

Purchasing cheap car insurance is essential to protect yourself during winter weather conditions. Finding a reputable auto insurance company has never been easier. Ensuring you have the proper amount of bodily injury liability coverage, comprehensive coverage, or property damage liability is essential.

If you’re ready to get the cheapest auto insurance, it’s as simple as comparing rates as amounts vary by company. We have a helpful tool to find the best car insurance.