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America’s Worst cities for Winter Driving

Worst Cities for Winter Driving in the United States

As the end of one calendar and the start of the next approaches, the days get shorter, the nights feel darker, and some of America’s biggest holidays nip at one another’s heels. In the words of Ned Stark, all of these things point to one inevitable conclusion: Winter is coming.

Scratch that, for many people around the country winter is already here.  

In many of the more northern states in the U.S., measurable snow frequently arrives by November, with some states consistently receiving snowfall as early as October. Unfortunately for these snow-plagued states, Mother Nature doesn’t always take it easy with these early season snow storms, as people in the northeast and midwest can attest to already this year.

For people in these more snowbound locales, life doesn’t stop (at least not for very long) when winter precipitation builds up. While there are occasional school and business closings, those are temporary and eventually, commuters will need to take to snowy roads for work, school, shopping, and other essential functions of daily life.

Here at Yonkers Honda, we get more than our fair share of snow and have experienced the pain of driving in it first hand. In anticipation of another winter season, we wondered which American cities have it the worst when it comes to driving in winter weather.

To figure this out, we decided we needed to focus on a number of different factors. While it is undoubtedly true that drivers in some cities are better at driving in snowy conditions than others, we also felt it would only be fair to account for how the difficulty level of winter-weather driving as compared to others by factors such as snow volume and frequency, commute times, and how prepared a city is to deal with snow.  

Once we realized we wanted to approach this evaluation from those angles, we found a number of reliable sources to measure cities against one another and created a formula that allowed us to map out the 30 worst cities for winter weather driving in the country.

To find the 30 cities included in our analysis we started with the newest edition of the annual America’s Best Driver’s Report released by the insurance company Allstate. This report ranks the 200 largest cities in America from first to worst in terms of driving skill based on things like frequency of insurance claims and how often they experience hard-braking events while driving on average. Crucially for our purposes, they also include a distinct ranking focused on how skilled drivers in these cities are when encountering rain and snow conditions.

We looked the 100 cities with the worst drivers in precipitation conditions and used 20-year precipitation averages kept by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to eliminate any cities that annually receive less than 10 inches of snow in a year. This got our list down to the 30 cities in America where drivers are the worst at driving in precipitation that also receive significant snowfall year after year.

We then used the Allstate data on driving-related incidents as well as each city’s overall ranking when it comes to driving in precipitation as the basis for a formula that assigned each of the 30 cities a Winter Weather Driving score on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the the best winter drivers, comparatively), which can be seen by clicking on the individual cities on the map. We then looked at NOAA data relating to snowfall in each city to assign a pair of scores relating to snow density and frequency.

We then created a Commute Time score using Census data on average commute times (shorter commutes earning a higher score), and the final piece of our scoring looking at how many snow plows and trucks each city has available per 1,000 miles of road (found mostly via news articles and publicly available snow plans found on city government web pages) to create a Snow Preparedness Score for each city. We then weighted these various subscores and ran them through another formula to arrive at a final Winter Weather Driving Score on a scale of 0-60, with lower scores indicating cities where conditions and skills are the worst for drivers in wintery weather.

Every city’s final score is displayed underneath the map, and interesting data points such as time between insurance claims, average annual snowfall, average days a year with snowfall, average commute time, and how many snow plows or trucks are available in each city to help clear roads are displayed below the map, and each column can be sorted most to least and vice versa. All of this data also pops up when clicking on a city on the map.  

Number of worst cities for winter driving by state.

When reviewing the map of the Worst Winter-Weather Driving cities we decided to break the country down along traditional US Census regions to find which part of the country has the highest concentration of cities where snowy driving is worst. In that regard, the Mid Atlantic, home to states like New York and Pennsylvania finished first with nine different cities making the list, nearly a third of the overall total. On the opposite end of the spectrum, not a single city in America’s West South Central region made the list, the only region where that is true.

Average winter weather for the worst winter driving cities.

With the cities in this analysis located throughout this vast and meteorologically-diverse country, winter can differ a little from city to city. Still, there are a few shared annoyances that drivers in all of these cities experience, such as substantial snowfall and increased commute time. With this in mind, we wanted to see what a typical winter looks like for drivers in the 30 cities we looked at, so we averaged all of the data we collected to find out how many days a year these cities experience snowfall, how many inches of snow they receive, how long the average commute is in each city and the average number of snowplows available for every 1,000 miles of roadway that are present in each city. Those average can be found above.

Cities with the worst winter commutes.

One major unavoidable truth of driving in wintry conditions is that it just takes longer to get everywhere. Various reports say that light snow on its own can make a journey by car take up to 5.5% longer, while heavy snow can extend travel time by up to 40% on average. With those numbers in mind, we looked at how much time snow can add to the average commute to work on both the low end and the high end for all 30 cities in our analysis.

Cities with the longest average commute in heavy snowfall.

When looking at the time added to a commute, we found heavy snowfall would have the largest impact on a trip to work in the above cities, extending the average commute to over 45 minutes for each and every one. Four of these locations are near each other in the Mid Atlantic region (including the home of this very dealership), with the lone city not from that part of the country being Chicago, which hails from the stereotypically frigid East North Central.  

We know the kind of toll driving in cold and snowy conditions can take on drivers and their vehicles, and whether they live in one of the 30 worst cities for winter weather driving or not we hope that everyone drives safely this winter season. And for anyone in our neck of the woods in need of a new vehicle to help them get through these winter months, be sure to check out our full selection here at Yonkers Honda!

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