Winter Driving Techniques: What’s Changed With Modern Vehicles

2020/01/02

While most traditional winter driving techniques are still helpful today, modern vehicle design has introduced a number of wrinkles into how to safely get from point A to point B with snow and ice on the ground. However, new safety systems and driver aids have transformed how cars and trucks handle winter conditions. Here’s a look at how winter driving techniques have been affected by the latest automotive technology.

Stability Control Keeps Things Pointed in the Right Direction

When anti-lock brake system (ABS) technology started to become commonplace in the early ’90s, few could have predicted that it would one day be used to dramatically improve driver safety even when the brakes aren’t engaged. By connecting the ABS to a network of sensors that keep constant watch over vehicle speed, wheel position, heading, and g-forces, stability control programming can individually activate each brake while dialling back the throttle to help keep a car or truck pointing straight and true. This happens in a largely transparent fashion, allowing the driver to concentrate on steering without having to worry about how traction conditions are affecting forward progress or safety—a far cry from the urgent countersteering that was once the default reaction to a skid.

Drive Modes Add Extra Safety

Winter driving techniques have also benefitted from the development of driving modes that adjust vehicle performance to match road conditions. Many modern automobiles feature a snow mode setting that, when selected, dials back throttle response, increases the intervention of the stability and traction control systems, and starts automatic transmissions in second gear, rather than first, to reduce wheel spin. This type of driving mode is especially beneficial in high-performance cars, which can easily overwhelm available traction if not driven gingerly through the snow or on cold pavement.

Advanced All-Wheel Drive Is Always on Call

Gone are the days when a 4×4 had to be manually shifted into low gear before tackling a treacherous winter road. Today, winter driving techniques are informed by advanced all-wheel-drive systems that can automatically shuttle engine torque from one wheel to another to not only improve traction, but also assist with cornering on dry, cold asphalt. Again, this type of system works so quickly and so effectively that drivers hardly notice it, allowing them to focus on the traffic around them, upcoming corners, and nighttime visibility without worrying about grip.

Thanks in large part to the tech advances that help keep modern motorists safe, winter weather no longer has to result in major issues on the road.

By Benjamin Hunting

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