Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.

Will that SUV help you avoid a winter accident?

You decide that you want to stay safe this winter. There's a lot of snow and ice, and you know that puts you in danger on the roads all over Connecticut. You're in the market for a new vehicle anyway, so you opt to buy an SUV.

After all, the SUV looks bigger and tougher than a sedan, like it would keep you safe in all weather. It has more ground clearance over that snow. It just feels like the type of vehicle that is meant for winter driving. But will it actually help you avoid a crash?

The test

To test it, a number of experts set up an experiment with a Nissan Altima and a Range Rover Sport. The former is a sedan and the latter is an SUV. They then drove both vehicles through the snow at a test track and they had the drivers apply the brakes at the same time.

"The results surprised even us," said Jake Fisher of Consumer Reports. "The Altima took about half the distance of the Range Rover Sport. So, if you're looking for safety, actually, the Altima is going to help avoid the accident."

The video of the test made it perfectly clear. The Altima did slow down much faster and come to a halt, even though an SUV appears more snow-ready to the average car buyer.

Why does that happen?

There are a lot of factors to consider here. One is the weight of the vehicles. The Range Rover was larger, and stopping more weight can take more time and distance, especially with limited traction.

Another issue is a common misunderstanding of what all-wheel-drive systems actually do. Most SUVs do have these AWD systems, and they can help you keep from getting stuck in the snow because they give you more powered wheels that can find traction. The height of the SUV also helps because it won't bottom out in the snow.

While that makes the SUV more capable, it doesn't mean you can avoid a crash at highway speeds.

"The thing about all-wheel-drive is that it doesn't help to stop, and that's what you need to avoid an accident," Fisher said. He noted that the tires you have are actually more important than the drive system, saying that snow tires were the best and that all-season tires can also help.

Injuries and accidents

This helps to explain why so many drivers in SUVs and trucks lose control in the winter. They often drive dangerously, not slowing down in poor weather because they think that all-wheel-drive can save them. It can't. If you get hit by one of these drivers, you need to know how to seek compensation for your injuries.

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