Road and weather conditions play a huge role in driving safely, not to mention keeping car insurance premiums low with fewer claims. Drivers living in different areas of the country can be affected by different types of poor conditions, whether from Mother Nature or issues caused by humans.
To find the worst cities for driving conditions in the U.S., we evaluated the top 50 metropolitan areas based on population. We then ranked them based on seven categories. Five of those categories are pretty straightforward:
- Road quality (by city)
- Annual days of fog (by city)
- Annual days of rain (by city)
- Total inches of snow each year (by city)
- Number of hail claims (by state)
We also looked at a few factors that stood out in 2020: hurricanes and wildfires. In 2020, the U.S. experienced a record-setting 30 named storms, so we evaluated the number of times a state was impacted by a hurricane or tropical storm. We also looked at wildfires and included a category on the number of acres burned in each state for the year. Both types of natural disasters have resulted in billions of dollars in insurance claims, not to mention the safety of drivers in the affected areas. Auto insurance usually covers damage caused by wildfires. Any vehicle damage caused by hurricanes typically needs to have been sustained under a covered peril, like a tree limb falling on the car or wind damage.
Take a look at our top 10 worst cities for driving conditions based on these seven criteria. How does your city stack up?
#1: Pittsburgh, PA
Inclement weather of all types has positioned Pittsburgh as the nation’s worst city for driving conditions. Pennsylvania was not severely impacted by hurricanes or wildfires and Pittsburgh only ranks in the middle for road quality. But the city regularly experiences precipitation, snow and fog, ranking in the top 10 for all three categories. Plus, it comes in at number 10 for the number of hail claims each year. In order to successfully file a claim for winter weather events, drivers need comprehensive and collision to cover damage to their own vehicles.
- Annual days of precipitation: 154
- Annual days of fog: 183
- Total inches of snow each year: 43.8
#2: Denver, CO
Denver’s beautiful Rocky Mountains are responsible for some of the most challenging driving conditions in the country. Both snow and hail are common culprits. But the city also ranks in ninth place for road quality. Additionally, wildfires burned more than 700,000 acres of land across the entire state of Colorado in 2020.
- Annual hail claims in Colorado: 69,742
- Percentage of poor roads: 45%
- Total inches of snow each year: 43.8
#3: Philadelphia, PA
The City of Brotherly Love ranks as the third worst city for driving conditions. Annual hail claims are high in Pennsylvania, as are the number of foggy days and percentage of poor roads throughout Philadelphia. Snow isn’t as problematic as it is in Pittsburgh, but still has an average of 22.6 inches of accumulation a year.
- Annual hail claims in Pennsylvania: 31,635
- Percentage of poor roads: 38
- Annual days of fog: 164
#4: New Orleans, LA
New Orleans was hit hard by hurricanes in 2020, earning the top spot in this category. The Big Easy is also home to persistent fog, ranking first in this category as well. In fact, New Orleans residents complain that driving conditions in the fog are worsened by poor lighting throughout the city. A high percentage of poor road quality probably doesn’t help the situation very much.
- 2020 hurricanes in Louisiana: 5
- Annual days of fog: 200
- Percentage of poor roads: 38
#5: Cleveland, OH
Cleveland’s midwestern location helped it avoid hurricanes and wildfires in 2020, but the city did rank high in other areas that impact driving conditions. The percentage of poor roads is among the highest in the nation, coming in sixth place overall. These road conditions are compounded by top spots for both rain and snow throughout the year.
- Percentage of poor roads: 49
- Annual days of precipitation: 156
- Total inches of snow each year: 58
#6: Richmond, VA
While Richmond doesn’t receive a substantial amount of snow or hail claims each year, it is home to significant fog, ranking fifth among all the cities we evaluated. Additionally, Virginia was hit by three hurricanes over the course of 2020 and the quality of roads in Richmond is below average.
- Annual days of fog: 185
- 2020 hurricanes in Virginia: 3
- Percentage of poor roads: 34
#7: Houston, TX
Like Virginia, Texas was hit by three hurricanes in 2020. But what really helped Houston make the list of worst cities for driving is its fog and hail. Texas actually boasts the most hail claims in the entire country. Drivers generally need comprehensive auto insurance in order to be covered for hail damage. Additionally, Houston came in fourth place for the most foggy days throughout the year. All of these factors work together to make driving conditions tough in the city.
- Annual days of fog: 194
- Annual hail claims in Texas: 192,988
- 2020 hurricanes in Texas: 3
#8: St. Louis, MO
Natural disasters are few and far between in St. Louis, but the weather can inhibit driving conditions. The number of hail claims each year is in the top 10 for the entire U.S. Additionally, frequent fog can impair vision while on the road. Drivers can also expect occasional snow to slow them down in the winter months.
- Annual hail claims in Missouri: 33,976
- Annual days of fog: 158
- Total inches of snow each year: 18.6
#9: Detroit, MI
Detroit has one of the largest percentages of poor roads in the country. Difficult driving in the city is compounded by plenty of precipitation throughout the year. Detroit ranks seventh for the number of days with precipitation, making it no surprise that it also ranks tenth for the total inches of snow that falls each year.
- Percentage of poor roads: 56
- Annual days of precipitation: 135
- Total inches of snow each year: 43.2
#10: Baltimore, MD
Like Detroit, Baltimore has a reputation of poorly maintained roads, which can make driving more difficult. The city also gets an above average amount of snow compared to the rest of the cities we evaluated. Add to that two hurricanes that impacted Maryland in 2020, and it’s understandable why Charm City made the list.
- Percentage of poor roads: 43
- Total inches of snow each year: 19.8
- 2020 hurricanes in Maryland: 2
Staying safe while on the road depends on both the skill of the driver and the environment in which they’re driving. It’s smart for drivers to stay aware of what weather is most likely to impact their city’s road conditions and how to best prepare for inclement days.
The Zebra pulled three data points to analyze the top 50 MSAs (by population) in the U.S. for auto theft statistics. Some MSAs were removed due to lack of data, including San Jose and Riverside, California.
- Road quality (by city): Worst Maintained Roads Infographic by Teletrac Navman
- Annual days of fog (by city): Current Results Weather and Science Facts
- Annual days of precipitation (by city): National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Total inches of snow each year (by city): National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Number of hail claims (by state): Forecast Report by National Insurance Crime Bureau
- Hurricanes in 2020 (by state): Facts + Statistics: Hurricanes by the Insurance Information Institute
- Acres burned by wildfire (by state): 2020 North American Wildfire Season by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy
MSA data was used where applicable, and we sometimes substituted city or state data as necessary.