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Causes of Dangerous Winter Road Conditions

Updated on February 16, 2021
LindaSarhan profile image

L. Sarhan has a B.A. in English and creative writing. She is currently working on an M.A. in English and creative writing.

According to auto insurance companies, winter is the season where more auto accidents occur than any other season. In fact, there are more claims filed with insurance companies during the winter months. So what are the major contributing factors that cause roads to be dangerous during the winter months?

Other Drivers

Many people want to jump straight to solely blaming drivers and their possible inexperience. Perhaps this may be true in some cases but even the most experienced winter weather driver has difficulties driving during dangerous winter road conditions and can even be a victim to accidents. Instead of looking at the driver being solely at fault, first, consider what the true cause of the difficulties accident is in the first place which is dangerous winter road conditions.

Freezing Rain

As winter begins to appear, it is brought on with freezing rain. Freezing rain occurs when it rains and the surface temperature is below freezing. As the rain falls, it is cooled down rapidly and freezes as it hits the surface. This creates a layer of ice, known as glaze ice, on the roads drivers travel. As the freezing rain continues, it builds an even thicker layer of ice on the roads. Freezing rain doesn’t just form on the roads but on your vehicle and everything else it touches. Driving in freezing rain is extremely dangerous. If at all possible, avoid doing so at all costs.

Black Ice on the road
Black Ice on the road

Black Ice

Black ice is another major safety concern that makes winter road conditions dangerous. Black ice is formed when rain has already fallen and then the temperatures drop to below freezing. Black ice isn’t actually black, it is clear. The term comes from the coloring of the black asphalt making it only appear to be black in color. Many drivers won’t see it until it is too late. Black ice forms in patches. Black ice can cause vehicles to skid out of control without warning. Because black ice forms in patches chances are if you can make it through the patch, you may be able to regain control of your vehicle once you are clear of the black ice patch. However, black ice is not a road condition to take lightly.


Snow has been known to shut down airports, roads, and entire towns due to the dangerous road conditions it causes. Snow can be deceiving for many motorists. To most people, it looks fluffy and fun, but for drivers, it can be a nightmare. It causes the roads to become slippery and difficult to find enough traction to drive through. Sometimes it can cause a vehicle to skid, fish-tail, or spin wheels in place unable to get anywhere.

Snow can also cover up underlying winter road conditions that are even more dangerous than the snow itself. Snow can hide existing ice and cause drivers to struggle for control of their vehicles. In addition, drivers can pack down the snow on the roads traveled, and freezing temperatures can cause a stubborn think patch of ice which can ultimately cause danger to motorists.


Visibility is hindered during heavy snowstorms and blizzards. Not only is the snow and ice accumulating on the roads, but it can make visibility quite difficult. A driver may not see an added danger until it is too late. In addition to low visibility, the wind doesn’t help driving conditions either. Strong winds can make driving on snow and icy even more difficult to maintain control on dangerous winter roads.

The best advice in dealing with dangerous winter road conditions is to avoid driving on these roads at all costs. Some cities may have snowplow trucks and salting methods but even driving on slush-filled roads aren’t safe. These road conditions can be challenging for even veteran drivers.

If you absolutely must get out on the roads, plan ahead by knowing alternate routes and preparing your vehicle for everything winter has to throw at you. Also, check local forecasts to determine approximately when weather conditions that will make traveling difficult will arrive in your area and adjust your travel time accordingly.


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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 L. Sarhan


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