Is Winter Driving Safer With Four-Wheel, All-Wheel Drive Vehicles?

By Kristen Rodman, Staff Writer
January 23, 2014; 3:07 AM ET
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Winter brings a slew of challenges to drivers, from black ice to snow. Some vehicles are built with features to help get drivers home safely, including are four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive.

Unlike front- and rear-wheel drive, which use only two wheels to propel a vehicle, four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive use all the wheels of a car to move.

The differences between all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive, however, come in deciding when all four wheels get the power.

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With an all-wheel drive, an electronic sensor sends the power to all four wheels and determines when all the wheels are needed.

As for four-wheel drive, the driver is in charge of manually putting all four wheels to work by flipping a switch within the vehicle. Typically, these cars have different ranges for various speeds, including the highway, off-road driving or driving in heavy snow.

Both four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive benefit the driver by giving them a larger margin of error.

"You are splitting the amount of grip between four wheels, giving the driver more margin for error," Director of the Bridgestone Driving School Mark Cox said.

While these two types of drives have some benefits and may be considered ideal for driving under winter conditions, in the end, safety is dependent upon the driver.

"All-wheel drive creates a false sense of confidence," Cox said. "It doesn't really matter how many wheels propel your vehicle forward but when it comes to turning and stopping all vehicles are created equal."

Some content above contributed by Executive Editor for Roger Leo.

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