We have snow and driving has become more hazardous. My brother-in-law had just bought a new GM car and was extremely annoyed that it had traction control. Why? Because he couldn’t get up his driveway. The traction control would detect slippage and cut the power to the wheel that was slipping. Without that action, he could have spun the wheels and burned through the snow and ice until it gripped. Unfortunately, his GM car did not have an off-button for traction control.

I struck the same problem driving up a ramp out of the Cleveland Orchestra parking lot. It had snowed during the concert and we were the first car out of that ramp. It was about 25 yards long and fairly steep. About five yards from the top my Honda Accord stopped delivering power to the front wheels. I’d push the accelerator down and nothing would happen. For a few seconds it looked like we’d be stuck at the top of the ramp blocking hundreds of other cars. Eventually, the car inched its way forward and we were spared that embarrassment. If I’d realized then what was happening I could have turned off “Vehicle Stability Assist”, spun the wheels a tad, and exited the ramp properly.

Now, imagine that ramp was on a rail road crossing, or halfway through an intersection, or some other situation where stopping is not an option. The traction control may feel the wheels slipping but it can’t see the freight train or semi-trailer bearing down on you. My advice: learn how to turn off traction control instinctively when the car feels doesn’t respond to the accelerator appropriately. If you don’t have that option, don’t buy the car.

On the other hand, traction control does make driving safer most of the time. I certainly appreciated it once I was out of that ramp and underway on unsalted, unplowed streets.