What is pitch, yaw, and roll when driving?

With icy roads in the winter, I’ve been thinking about how easily my car gets off balance. I’ve heard that knowing about pitch, yaw, and roll can help with controlling your vehicle. What exactly do they mean?

Kaitlin May · Updated on
Reviewed by Shannon Martin, Licensed Insurance Agent.
It seems like any little thing can throw your car off-kilter in the winter—it’s super scary! And you’re right knowing about pitch, yaw, and roll when driving can help keep your car under control.
Every time your car makes a basic maneuver, your vehicle’s weight shifts. Pitch refers to the front-and-back motion, yaw is the rotating motion, and roll is the side-to-side motion. Here’s how common motions affect the way your car moves:
  • Acceleration shifts your car’s weight to the back
  • Deceleration shifts your car’s weight to the front
  • Steering moves your car’s weight to left or right, depending on which way you turn
Coming up on a patch of ice, a vehicle, or a woodland creature can be enough for you to brake abruptly—causing you to skid or flip your car. Some of the most severe crashes result from a car’s faulty pitch, yaw, or roll balance control at high speeds.
By braking gradually and steering along with the curves of the road, you can be mindful of the weight shifts in your car. Here’s how:
  • Steer clear of sudden stopping and accelerating to keep the pitch in check.
  • Keep your tires fresh to avoid a yaw issue.
  • Steady steering can keep your car’s roll balanced (and prevent your car from rolling over).
If you find yourself in a situation where the traffic or weather conditions put you between a pitch, yaw, and roll and a hard place—you’ll have better peace of mind if you know you have great car insurance. The
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