The leading cause of death from winter storms isn’t exposure or exhaustion, but instead, automobile or transportation accidents.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions—in other words, anywhere that receives more than five inches of snowfall each year, on average. In addition, nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these snowy regions. In other words? A lot of us have to deal with winter storms. And about 70 percent of the accidental deaths that occur in the wintertime happen in automobiles.

  • Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually.
  • Every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet.
  • Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.

Safe winter roads protect lives


When winter roads become impassable, ambulances, fire engines, police and other emergency vehicles can’t perform their life-saving services. That’s bad enough, but the risk to life and limb goes far beyond the inability to respond to emergencies.

Winter road maintenance accounts for roughly 20 percent of state Department of  Transportation maintenance budgets.

A Marquette University study examined highway accidents in snow. Road salt reduced:

  • Crashes by 88%
  • Injuries by 85%
  • Accident costs by 85%

Battling snow and ice comes with a price tag, of course, but the study’s cost-benefit analysis shows it is well worth the investment. Deicing pays for itself a mere 25 minutes after salt is spread.

Perhaps the most effective element in reducing highway accidents in any road condition is that of safe and cautious driving.