South Carolina ranks in the most dangerous half of states in which to drive in wintery conditions. Massachusetts is one of the safest. These and other findings from a new study may have you rethinking what you think you know about safe winter driving.
The study was conducted by the personal finance technology company MoneyGeek. It looked closely at data available from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to draw some interesting conclusions. Most notably for this Massachusetts-based winter vehicle tester, that the Bay State is a safer place in which to drive in winter than Alabama or the Carolinas.
"Massachusetts is one of the safest states for winter driving,” said Doug Milnes, Head of Data Analytics at MoneyGeek. “Overall, MoneyGeek ranked it as 42nd out of 50 for winter driving danger. It has relatively safe drivers, #3 in the nation, and a very low rate of winter driving fatalities when adjusted for vehicular miles.” Doug also added, “Somewhat surprisingly, Massachusetts ranked as safer for winter driving than Texas did.”
If I may insert a bit of my own experience at this point in the story, I’d like to shed some insight on that. Having worked for a Texas-based company and covered the state as an on-the-road salesperson for many years, I’ve witnessed first-hand the carnage from a rare winter storm that brought just a covering of snow to the Lone Star State. Crashes were everywhere. First responders were out in force, and the vehicle I was a passenger in was struggling. When I asked the sales rep I was traveling with why he was having trouble starting off at traffic lights, his response explained everything. He said, “Well, real-wheel-drive cars with summer-rated tires tend to struggle a bit in this type of weather.” Aha. Unprepared.
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The most unsafe state makes perfect sense. Michigan is ranked as the most unsafe in the study. That seems intuitive. Michigan combines Great Lakes moisture, a cold climate, and busy urban and suburban driving. Alaska being number two on the list also raises no eyebrows. Wyoming, Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Minnesota all being in the top ten is also intuitive. But who would have guessed that Pennsylvania would be ranked fourth most dangerous but New Jersey 45th?
Part of the reason for the unusual rankings that seem to have some states out of place on this list has to do with a driver safety score that MoneyGeek employs to build its rankings. The Safe Driver Score is the final score calculated by MoneyGeek in its rating of the states with the safest drivers. That hurts some states and helps others.
Florida and Hawaii are the two safest winter-driving states. No surprise there. However, Rhode Island is ranked fourth-safest. And Rhode Island is a snowy state. It averages about three feet per year, but in 2018, the capital, Providence, received 36 inches in a day. In 2015, Providence got 41 inches in one 24-hour period. However, like all New England states, drivers in Rhode Island use all-season or winter-rated tires, and all-wheel drive is very popular.
To see where your state ranks for winter driving safety, check out the full study at MoneyGeek.
John Goreham is a long-time New England Motor Press Association member and recovering engineer. John has completed the Team O'Neil Rally School's Winter Safe Driving Program. Although he tests vehicles on snowy public roads, at no time does he put the public at risk. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his credentials at Linkedin