Winter driving…..myths or truths?

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  1. Rick says:

    Even on dry pavement, ABS (Anti-lock brakes) will NOT allow a vehicle to stop more quickly. ABS are designed to allowed a driver to maintain steering during hard braking. The fastest method of stopping a vehicle is 4-wheel lock-up with standard brakes.

    A little know secret in the automotive safety industry is that ABS do what a driver does naturally in an emergency situation.

    – An emergency situation is recognized
    – The brakes are applied
    – Situation reassessed – brakes released
    – Steering in a desired direction
    – Reapply the brakes

    • safedriver says:

      Thanks for the comment. To an average driver though, ABS is their friend. Locking the wheels may stop you quicker – if you’re on loose gravel over very deep snow – but not on everyday roads. It has a plowing affect in front of the tire if you’re in deep snow or loose gravel. On pavement, the creation of friction between the tires and the pavement cause the rubber to melt and melted rubber is slippery. Therefore, it doesn’t stop you that fast. What you described as what a driver does naturally isn’t quite true. Most drivers will have a “target fixation” on what they are trying to avoid. They may steer away from it while still looking at the problem, but the fear and panic they’ve experienced will keep their foot on the brake. That’s where ABS comes in. It keeps the wheels in motion which allows steering to be done. Only a highly trained and experienced driver can do what you’ve described, and that doesn’t describe most of the drivers on our roads.

  2. Shaun says:

    4WD is first and foremost a ‘performance’ feature…not a safety feature as manufacturers would like us to believe. It doesn’t allow drivers to slow or steer anymore effectively than a 2WD vehicle. As such it gives people a false sense of security. So does ABS. People are lead to believe that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Personally, I can stop faster on dry pavement faster without ABS by threshold braking techniques. Locking up doesn’t allow you to stop faster, because as was mentioned, the liquification of the rubber as it melts. ABS can stop you faster than a lockup but skilled drivers can stop faster with threshold braking. Average drivers can’t though. Drivers are also not aware that in deep snow, a vehicle with ABS can take up to twice as long to stop than a vehicle without ABS and most people are unaware that ABS can take up to 10x longer to stop on ice than on dry roads. Once again, ignorance leads to a false sense of security. ABS will only assist you…not save you. Although it does allow you to brake and steer, it’s really of little help in that regard because most people will experience target fixation and not try and avoid the ‘threat’ at all. I have an ABS bypass switch in my car so I can decide when I want them to ‘assist’ me or not depending on road conditions.

  3. Bob says:

    Even on dry pavement, ABS (Anti-lock brakes) will NOT allow a vehicle to stop more quickly. <- Wrong.

    • safedriver says:

      Bob, thanks for the comment. Taking the information in context, the statement is that it can ‘allow’ the driver to stop quickly. To a driver who doesn’t fully understand threshold braking and doesn’t press the brake pedal hard enough because they’re afraid of locking their wheels, ABS can allow them to stop quicker. To the driver who panics and locks the wheels, ABS may give them that ability to to stop quicker, but also to steer away from trouble, as the post described.

  4. I’m still not entirely sold on ESC, I’ve had a chance to experience it firsthand in a Fiat 500 on Ontario secondary highway 533 last summer which had sections under repair and covered with loose gravel.

    Despite driving well below the construction zone speed of 60 km/h, there were curved sections under construction where the car had a slight tendency to want to swing around. Nothing that would actually trigger off a full skid mind you, but you could just feel the rear end of the car trying to swing away from the turn.

    The thing is, I know I have to steer towards the skid so that the rear end of the car doesn’t spin around. But the ESC system was trying to do its own thing in a situation that would NOT have produced a full skid in the first place, and I found myself trying to resist the temptation to steer towards the skid as the ESC system was playing around with the wheels in what seemed like a very awkward manner.

    ESC is something I need to thoroughly test out on a loose gravel or snow covered field, both active and inactive, so that whenever I need to compensate for a skid situation (something that DOES happen during the winter even at crawling speeds), I’ll know what to do at the time. Right now, I don’t fully understand what ESC is trying to do, and it feels as if my normally “safe” driving actions might actually compromise my situation.

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