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Worst 10 states for winter fatal traffic crashes

Most accidents aren’t associated with dangerous road conditions like snow, ice

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Most of the nation’s winter fatal traffic crashes happen where you might least expect them.

There are more than 7,000 fatal traffic collisions recorded each winter in the U.S., according to 2019 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration records. However, most fatal vehicle collisions in the winter aren’t in places like Colorado or New Hampshire, where winter storms are a way of life. Rather, they mostly occur in states not associated with dangerous driving conditions like snow and ice.


Related: FreightWaves Classics: 10 most dangerous roads for truckers in USA


Teletrac Navman, a leading global mobile asset and fleet management software provider for the trucking, construction and service industries, recently came up with a list of the 10 states with the highest rates of fatal collisions in the winter — commercial and noncommercial vehicles combined. Surprisingly, Wyoming had the highest rate of fatal wintertime traffic accidents, followed by Mississippi and New Mexico.

Ben Williams, Teletrac Navman’s director of digital and central marketing, told FreightWaves that he used 2019 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, unskewed by the COVID pandemic, mapped against census data. He said the big factor in his unexpected findings was speed, but Williams didn’t have analysis of other possible causes such as distracted/drunk driving or other weather conditions like rain.

“There’s a tendency, or I hope anyway, that people, when it’s snowing and icy, are driving slower, responding to those weather conditions,” Williams explained. “So the number of accidents that are fatal declines.”


The theory is that people drive faster in states where winter storms do not impede their progress compared to states that routinely see snow and ice. Another factor is that residents and truckers in winter-prone states know how to handle the hazardous conditions safely from experience.

Teletrac Navman’s findings may signal the attention paid to maintaining safe road conditions and cautious driving skills of motorists in snowy states versus the lack of preparedness in other states. This highly affects the way the telematics and fleet management industries consider seasonal driving.

Keeping with the trend that the deadliest locales are least associated with winter storms, the two cities with the deadliest winter roads were Phoenix and Los Angeles — each with more than 60 fatal collisions reported in winter.


Related: Most dangerous railroad crossings for US truckers


By the way, Wyoming also had the highest rate of fatal crashes nationwide in summer. In addition, Wyoming’s spring and summer fatal accident rates were higher than its winter rate.

Teletrac Navman’s motivation for compiling the list was to keep the conversation going about road safety, whether drivers are in four-wheelers or 18-wheelers. The information may help the company improve its technology, designed to steer truckers away from potentially hazardous weather and unnecessary delays in real time.

“We like to highlight these things and create this data and a constant dial-up around those data,” Williams said.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.
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