Winter is less than a month away, but even before it officially arrives, conditions can get slick. Out of all weather-related crashes that occur in the United States each year, nearly 40 percent are caused by show and ice, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).
If you drive in Pennsylvania, driving in wintery conditions is often unavoidable. According to a recent study conducted by personal financing publication MoneyGeek, Pennsylvania is the second most dangerous state to drive in during the winter — just behind Michigan.
How many winter driving deaths occur in Pennsylvania?
The study based its findings on crash data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from 2015-2017. During that period, Pennsylvania averaged about 30 traffic fatalities during the winter each year. On a yearly basis, there were:
- 36 winter-related traffic fatalities in 2015
- 30 in 2016
- 25 in 2017
What are common winter-related risk factors?
Winter in Pennsylvania can be brutal and sometimes unpredictable. Black ice, freezing rain, sleet, and snow all make for slippery road conditions.
Black ice can be difficult to see, especially when driving at night. It often forms when the temperature drops below freezing after the snow has melted into the roadway.
With the holidays coming up, we'll likely see an increase in:
- Aggressive driving: As PA residents embark on their holiday shopping, traffic congestion and incidents of aggressive driving may increase.
- Drunk driving: Drinks are often served and consumed at holiday parties and celebrations. While police will be out looking for drunk drivers, many will go unnoticed. If you happen to see another driver swerving or driving erratically, keep your distance.
How can I stay safe driving this winter?
According to MoneyGeek, drivers can prepare for winter safety ahead of time by doing the following:
- Getting a vehicle checkup
- Consider replacing your battery if it's more than three years old
- Keep gas tank full, stock up on windshield wiper fluid, and ensure floor mats are properly installed
- Check your tires for tread wear and consider replacing them as needed.
- Keep emergency supplies such as food, jumper cables, a blanket, water, cellphone charger, and other important items
If you happen to skid or slide, follow these three tips offered by storm chaser Dan Robinson:
- Avoid hitting the brakes. Instead, ease your foot off the gas.
- Turn your steering wheel in the same direction the back of your vehicle is sliding.
- Never overcorrect as it can cause your car to keep spinning.
According to AAA, the first step to staying safe during winter weather conditions is to stay home if you can:
"Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it's better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out."
Should you or a loved one be injured in a winter-related crash, it's important that you immediately contact emergency services and medical help. You should then consult with an experienced Pennsylvania car accident attorney who can investigate your crash and help you explore your legal options.