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The reason people conclude front wheel drive vehicles are safer in the snow is because of throttle control.

Give a RWD to someone who isn't very good at throttle control and he can get himself in trouble easily in a RWD. Winter tire or not. It's not hard to oversteer a RWD in the snow and to be honest most American drivers do not understand countersteer and do not understand how to handle oversteer.

In a front wheel drive in order to spin out you really have to be going fast. The back of the car sort of just follows the front and though it may step out in slick conditions all you have to do is keep going with the throttle and the front will pull through (in most cases)

Most drivers can't even tell when the back is stepping out. They are so disconnected with their cars they simply don't know what is going on.

Now in heavy and deep snow I can say that going straight in a FWD is easier to drive. In heavy snow storms rear wheel drive vehicles are extremely twitchy going straight, in a front wheel drive you just throttle through all the snow digging your way out.

Plus there is always the chance of getting stuck in a RWD that is front heavy. There just isn't enough weight in the back to get through fresh deep snow. I always get stuck in parking lots during snow storms even with the best winter tire.

From a performance perspective neither is better because not all RWD cars are well balanced. Oversteer hurts lap times as much as understeer does. You want a vehicle that is neutral at its limits. I have driven cars that can have neutral handling characteristics in all formats of engine placement and wheel drive. It all boils down to suspension tuning and chassis engineering.
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