Driving during the winter months can be scary. Snow and ice reduce traction, snowfall reduces visibility, lower speeds must be used when driving in/on snow or ice, and winter weather increases a driver’s chance of hydroplaning. This should imply that driving in the winter months is more dangerous than driving in the summer months, right? Not exactly.
Although driving in the inclement weather of winter is, simply put – dangerous, winter is not the most dangerous time to drive. According to the Michigan Department of State, 8.8% of young driver fatal crashes happen during snowy weather, 4.4% happen on icy roads, and an astounding 79.6% happen during fair weather conditions. The diagram below also indicates that more young driver fatalities occur when the roads are dry versus when the roads are wet. How does this make sense?
What are the Road and Weather Conditions in Fatal Crashes?
Think about it… during the winter months, drivers are:
• more likely to speed when the weather is nice (ideal) and/or when the sun is out.
• more likely to drive at or below the speed limit.
• less likely to do something reckless in adverse weather.
• more likely to pay special attention during adverse weather.
• more likely to be patient/understanding with other drivers (ex: more likely to understand why a driver is driving “too slowly.”
• less likely to tailgate.
• more likely to prepare themselves and their vehicle before driving.
• more likely to avoid driving altogether (which means fewer drivers on the roads).
Almost all States in America receive snow throughout the year. The amount of snowfall varies of course, but learning how to handle winter driving is much better than not knowing how.
The average annual snowfall by US county
The average snowiest month of the year
Winter Driving Tips
When driving during the winter, you must take special care to make smooth, gradual maneuvers with your steering wheel, gas pedal, and brake pedal. Turning your steering wheel smoothly and applying smooth, gradual pressure to both the gas and brake pedals are essential for keeping proper traction. Driving in winter will teach you how to drive safely and patiently and will boost your confidence! If you can handle safe driving in the winter, you know you can handle safe driving in the summer!
Driver Education During Winter
Many students and parents delay driver education during the winter months because they believe it is not a safe time to learn to drive. Driving on snowy roads is a way of life in the Midwest, and if you can master snowy roads, you will be a confident driver all year long. We encourage you to make driver education a priority in the winter.
Author: Eman Youssef, Curriculum Manager – All Star Driver Education