Question: How bad is winter compared to summer when it comes to crashes? Is it as bad as we think it is or what? It seems like we have a lot more crashes when the snow flies. How about some winter driving tips too for everyone? Thanks!
Answer: Historically during the winter weather months in Minnesota the number of vehicle crashes, especially property damage crashes, increase substantially but we actually have more serious and fatal crashes on clear dry roads during the summer months. People drive too fast for conditions in the winter, but the speeds seem to be much greater when the roads are dry and the weather is good. Because of the higher speeds, the crashes produce more injuries and deaths. Speed is a major factor in crashes. In fact, it is the number one contributing factor on our crash reports. Of course we don’t see many motorcycle crashes in the winter but we do see a slight rise in sport utility vehicle type crashes because of the false sense of security riding in those vehicles.
The weather conditions of course are a huge factor, which in turn affect the road conditions. For example, during a winter storm we might have between 200 and 400 vehicles off the road or in crashes. We normally don’t see that volume of traffic incidents occurring on summer days unless there is a natural disaster type of situation that occurs, affecting a large number of motorists. Winter white-out conditions are very common in parts of the state and are extremely dangerous.
During 2009–2011, there were a total of 73,759 crashes during the winter season (December-February), accounting for 34 percent of the state’s total crashes. In 2011, crashes on snow/icy road surfaces accounted for nearly 17,000 crashes resulting in 47 deaths and 5,308 injuries. In 2011, January was the leading month for crashes (10,069) and injuries (3,313).
Great winter tips for motorists include:
• Always use seat belts.
• Give yourself plenty of travel time — don’t put your schedule before safety.
• Clear snow and ice from all vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
• Adjust speed to road and weather conditions.
• Lower speeds help drivers avoid crashes and minimize those that occur.
• Keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles, and leave extra room between your vehicle and snow plows or other removal equipment.
• Headlights must be turned on when it is snowing or sleeting.
If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, MN State Patrol, P.O. Box 644, Brainerd, MN, 56401, or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with Ask a Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.