More Than Half a Million Crashes Occur In Winter Weather

AAA Foundation study shows bad weather a factor in more than 2,000 road deaths every winter

Traffic Safety

Minneapolis, MN (November 30, 2018) - Dangerous winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. About 46 percent of all crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter months. AAA encourages drivers to be vigilant when hitting the road this winter and to always stay prepared by carrying an emergency roadside kit in your vehicle.

“There are a disproportionate number of crashes this time of year involving bad weather and winter storms,” said Chris Claeson, AAA Minneapolis Driving Programs Manager. “Snow and sleet can cause significant safety problems by reducing visibility and making it difficult to safely maneuver or stop, but by being vigilant behind the wheel, motorists can help to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities.”

The AAA Foundation research report (Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries and Deaths in Relation to Weather Conditions), analyzed bad weather and crashes between 2010 to 2014. The study found that the highest proportion of crashes involving bad weather happens overnight from 6:00 PM until 5:59 AM, when visibility is limited and roads are most likely to freeze. Previous AAA Foundation research also has found that the rates of fatal crashes are higher during the first snowfall of the year than on subsequent days with snow.

Crashes in bad weather are generally less severe than crashes taking place in clear weather. For example, crashes that occur on snow-covered roads result in 31 percent fewer injuries per crash and 47 percent fewer fatalities per crash than on dry roads. While the study was unable to examine the impact of bad weather on the risk of being involved in a crash in the first place, other studies have found that rates of all types of crashes generally increase in bad weather, but that the increases in minor crashes are larger than the increases in more severe crashes. One major exception was fog. Crashes in fog were more than twice as likely to result in fatalities, compared with crashes that occurred in clear weather.

AAA recommends the following tips while driving in snowy and icy conditions:

  • 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 down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain 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 any vehicle in front of you. This space allows you time to stop safely if the other driver brakes suddenly.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to 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 inertia 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 just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia 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 inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

Far too many drivers become stranded at the roadside this time of year. This winter, AAA expects to handle around 78,300 calls in Minnesota, the most common problems being lockouts, dead batteries and flat tires. With the snow that fell Wednesday night, November 28th, AAA Minneapolis handled 581 service calls in Hennepin County alone between 12 p.m. Wednesday and 12 p.m. Thursday. The two highest services needed were extrication/towing and battery assistance.

“Despite the large number of stranded drivers, more than 40 percent of motorists do not carry an emergency kit in their vehicle,” said Claeson. “Drivers attempting to brave bad weather should remain cautious and always be prepared by packing an emergency roadside kit.”

AAA recommends always keeping the following items in your “emergency kit” for winter driving:

  • Mobile phone and car charger
  • First-aid kit
  • Blankets
  • Drinking water/snacks for everyone in the car including pets
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Rags, paper towels or pre-moistened wipes
  • Basic toolkit including duct tape and warning devices such as flares or reflectors
  • Ice scraper/snow brush
  • Jumper cables/jump pack
  • Traction aid such as sand, salt or non-clumping cat litter
  • Tarp, raincoat and gloves
  • Shovel

Before hitting the road, take a minute to look over AAA Minneapolis’ winter driving resources, or by going to Drivers can also download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. They can use the app to map a route, find AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities and more.  For members in need of roadside assistance, they can use the app, visit or call 1-800-AAA-HELP. For added convenience, Wazers can now request AAA roadside assistance directly from the Waze app by tapping the Report menu.