Every year, on average, nearly a quarter of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on pavement that is either icy, slushy or snowy, killing 1,300 people a year and injuring an estimated 116,800.
Traffic Fatalities by Year
As you can see in the chart below, most fatal crashes aren’t weather-related and occur under normal weather conditions. Fatal crashes during snow/sleet only accounted for 1 percent of all fatal crashes in 2020, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).1
On the whole, the amount of traffic fatalities that occurred in snow/sleet has decreased by 45 percent from 2010 to 2020. On average per year, there were 496 snow/sleet-related fatal crashes out of 32,615, meaning only 2 percent of all fatal crashes involved snow/sleet. Year over year, there was an average decrease of 3 percent.
||Total fatal crashes in snow/sleet conditions
||Total fatal crashes
In 2020, fatal crashes were highest during the summer and fall months, specifically between July and October. This period includes Labor Day accidents, one of the deadliest holidays for driving. The winter months, December through March, had lower fatal crash rates than the rest of the year.
||Total fatal crashes in 2020
||Percentage of total fatal crashes in 2020
||Fatal crash rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2020
Still, some states are more dangerous to drive in than others during the winter holidays. Check out our holiday car crash statistics to learn more.
Crash Rates in Wintry Conditions
We analyzed crash data from the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) that included only crashes occurring in weather conditions that involved:
- Freezing rain or drizzle
- Snow, including blowing snow
Not surprisingly, the majority of car accidents that occurred in wintry weather conditions like those above occurred during January and February. From 2010 to 2020, these months accounted for 49 percent of fatalities, 56 percent of injuries and 59 percent of property damage-only wintry car crashes.
Fortunately, the data shows that most crashes during wintry conditions are not fatal. In 2020, for example, 79 percent of wintry crashes involved property damage only, 21 percent involved injuries only and less than 1 percent involved fatalities.
Road Condition Statistics
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) defines “snow regions” as any area that receives, on average, at least five inches of snowfall a year. Seventy percent of the country’s roads are located in snowy regions and 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these regions. Here’s how wintry conditions on roads affect our driving, according to the FHA:
- Snowy/slushy pavement reduces average arterial speeds by 30 to 40 percent.
- Light snow reduces speeds on freeways by 3 to 13 percent.
- Heavy snow decreases speeds on freeways by 5 to 40 percent.
From a financial perspective, wintry weather is costly. The U.S. Department of Transportation allocates 20 percent of its maintenance budget to roads with snow/ice while state and local agencies spend more than $2.3 billion annually on snow/ice operations. That doesn’t even take into account infrastructure costs due to snow and ice.2