"‘Steer clear of Strait Steet,’ he advised wryly, turning away, ‘otherwise you may be wrong. "
"I purposely steer away from‘political messages."
These are two sample sentences in I found in BNC. "Steer away from" can be used in boat-steering. "Steer clear of" is more used as a verb phrase to mean "keep away from".
But the two cases I gave, the former phrase just was used the way the latter was to be used. And the latter used the way the former used. So does this justify me treating them as being interchangeable?