Winter is just around the corner, and many drivers are wondering if they can keep their summer tires for a while longer.
Or whether they need to switch to winter tires. In this blog post, we explain what the law says, the risks of driving with summer tires in winter, and what penalties you can expect if you get caught.
WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?
In Germany, there is no set date by which you must change your summer tires. Instead, there is what is known as a situational winter tire requirement.
This means that you are only allowed to drive with summer tires if the weather and road conditions allow it. If it is snowing, slippery or slushy, you must change to winter tires. This also applies to all-season or all-weather tires, which are only considered winter tires if they have the snowflake or alpine symbol on the tire sidewall.
WHICH VEHICLES NEED WINTER TIRES?
The situational winter tire requirement applies not only to passenger cars, but also to trucks, buses, motorcycles, and trailers. It also applies to foreign vehicles driving in Germany. The only exception is vintage cars with H license plates, which cannot be fitted with winter tires for technical reasons.
The winter tire obligation does not only apply from October to Easter, as is often assumed, but all year round. This means that you must change to winter tires even in summer when winter conditions prevail. Conversely, you can drive with summer tires in winter when it is dry and warm.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Driving with summer tires in winter is not only illegal, but also dangerous. Summer tires are optimized for higher temperatures and dry roads. They have a harder rubber compound and a different tread design than winter tires. Therefore, they provide less grip and traction at low temperatures and on wet or slippery roads.
This negatively impacts the handling of the vehicle. For example, when braking with summer tires on snow or ice, the stopping distance is considerably longer. According to the ADAC, the stopping distance at 50 km/h can be up to 11 meters longer than with winter tires. That can make the difference between avoiding an accident and not.
Cornering and accelerating in winter is also more difficult with summer tires. The car can easily skid or lose control. This increases the risk of a collision or skid.
In addition, driving with summer tires in winter can lead to more wear and tear on the tires. The low temperatures cause the rubber to become brittle and crack. This shortens the life of the tires and can lead to tire failure.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
If you are caught driving with summer tires in the winter, you face several penalties. First, you can get a fine of at least 60 euros and a point in Flensburg. If you endanger others or cause an accident, the fine can increase up to 120 euros and two points.
On the other hand, you may also be partly to blame for an accident, even if you did not cause it yourself. This may mean that you have to pay part of the damage yourself, or that the insurance company reduces or refuses payment.
You may also be stopped by the police and asked to change to winter tires. If you do not comply with this request immediately, the police may ban you from driving or impound your car.
Driving with summer tires in winter is not a good idea. Not only is it illegal, but it’s also risky. You endanger yourself and others, and you may be fined.
Therefore, switch to winter tires as soon as weather and road conditions warrant. This will make your winter driving safer and more comfortable.