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Answer Desk: Just how useful is 4-wheel drive?

Wednesday - 3/6/2013, 6:05am  ET

WASHINGTON -- There is one thing that's certain when snow falls in the D.C. region.

"We'll hear Bob Marbourg talking about 'we have a turned-over vehicle on the median strip,'" says Lon Anderson, AAA spokesman. "Well, that was probably an SUV driver with overconfidence."

Anderson says too many SUV drivers go too fast in poor driving conditions, and that no car is safe on icy roads. Four-wheel drive can help in some scenarios, but bad weather conditions make driving tricky in all cars -- SUVs are no exception.

"Four-wheel drive can be useful in helping you get going and helping you gain traction when you're driving especially, for example, up big hills," Anderson says.

"But when it gets very slippery, you begin to have problems with traction."

In fact, an SUV faces the same risks as any car when turning or braking. In addition, engaging all four wheels doesn't help on wet or slushy roads, and it uses up more gas.

Anderson suggests drivers limit using four-wheel drive to roads with lots of snow that haven't yet been plowed.

WTOP's Dick Uliano contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter.