AAA: Annual Roadway Fatalities in Winter Weather Are Anything But Frozen

New analysis from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds severe winter weather is a factor in over 2,000 deaths annually

Automotive, Traffic Safety

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – New AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety data analysis finds that almost half a million crashes and over 2,000 deaths occur during severe weather and hazardous road conditions annually. The analysis found that over 38% of crashes involving bad weather and/or hazardous road conditions happen during the winter. AAA recommends that all drivers take extra caution and avoid all distractions when driving in winter conditions.  

“Rain, snow and sleet can reduce your visibility, making it difficult to safely maneuver or even bring the car to a stop if necessary,” said Chris Claeson, Manager of Driving Programs at AAA Minneapolis. “Everyone needs to be diligent when driving in these conditions, especially if the road is wet or covered in ice or snow.”

The AAA Foundation analyzed 2017 regional data of crashes occurring in adverse weather including what the roadway surface conditions were at the time of the crash. Researchers found that adverse weather and roadway surface conditions were involved in 29% of all crashes and 25% of all deaths that occurred during the winter— much higher than during any other season. Regionally, 40.8% of crashes and 32.3% of deaths during the winter occur in adverse weather or on hazardous roadway surface conditions in the Midwest.

This winter, AAA Minneapolis and AAA Minnesota-Iowa expect to rescue 119,000 motorists in Minnesota. 

Make sure your car is winterized and when faced with snowy or icy conditions, AAA recommends:

  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
  • Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed to account for less traction when driving on snow or ice.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to retain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember:  it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Increase your following distance. Allow five to six seconds of following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This extra space will allow you time to stop safely if the other driver suddenly brakes.
  • Brake very smoothly. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to smoothly apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal. Don’t pump the brakes.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of energy it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  • Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads may cause your wheels to spin. Try to get a little momentum before you reach the hill and let that carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some momentum going on a flat roadway before making your way up the hill.