New regulations for winter tyres in Germany
Regulations for the use of winter tyres in Germany have been tightened since 1 January 2018. Put simply it means that only winter tyres or all-season tyres with the Alpine symbol (snowflake symbol) will meet the new requirements. But how does this work in practice? When are winter tyres required in Germany and what regulations do they need to meet?
German law does not refer to winter tyres, but to tyres with winter properties. This covers all-season tyres in addition to winter tyres. The use of tyres with winter properties in winter conditions is mandatory. Winter conditions are defined as: ice, slippery conditions in snow, slush and slippery conditions caused by ice or frost. No fixed period is defined, so there is the possibility of winter conditions in periods other than the traditional winter months. Trailers and caravans are not covered by this regulation as they are not driven but simply towed. The towing vehicle, and also motorhomes for example, must of course comply with the new regulations.
Winter tyres in Germany from 1 January 2018
Nothing new so far as regards Germany, but the definition of a ‘tyre with winter properties’ has been modified since 1 January 2018. To meet the new requirements, a minimum tread of 4 millimetres is recommended (1.6 millimetres is mandatory but perhaps Germany will also decide, just as in Austria, to increase this to 4 millimetres), and winter or all-season tyres must have the Alpine symbol shown below.
Tyres that just have an M + S code are therefore no longer sufficient. Manufacturers can decide for themselves whether to put the letters M (mud) or S (snow) on their tyres. But these terms say nothing about the performance of the tyres in winter conditions. What’s more, these symbols may appear on summer tyres. The Alpine symbol gives more assurance. To be allowed to use this symbol, the tyre must conform to a minimum standard of grip in winter conditions (snow grip index).
Does this mean those tyres you just bought were a waste of money? Thankfully, no. A transitional regulation will be in force until 30 September 2024 and winter or all-season tyres with only an M + S code can still be used, provided they were purchased before 1 January 2018. You may be required to prove that the tyres were actually manufactured and purchased before that date.
The production date of the tyre can be checked using the DOT-code shown on the tyre. The four numerals of the code show the production date. For example, the numerals 2416 mean that the tyre was manufactured in the 24th week of 2016. It is mandatory for all winter tyres or all-season tyres manufactured after 1 January 2018 to have an Alpine symbol. Make sure you check the production date and the symbol when buying new tyres.
Fines and liability
If your tyres do not meet the new requirements during a control, there will be a €60 fine. If you are inconveniencing other road users this will be increased to €80. Moreover, if you are involved in an accident, even if it was not your fault, you may be held jointly liable. Make sure therefore that your tyres are suitable for the weather conditions. The right type of all-season tyre will make sure you comply throughout the year!
To comply with all the regulations in winter conditions, your car should be fully equipped for the winter. German law specifies that your car must be equipped for current weather conditions. In addition to the correct tyres, your car must have sufficient screen washer (containing antifreeze) in winter and properly functioning windscreen wipers. In addition it is also mandatory to use snow chains on some (mountain) roads, so make sure you carry a set in your car. Finally, an emergency triangle, high-visibility vests and a first aid kit are of course mandatory.
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