Many drivers are still unsure about the winter tyre rules in Germany. By what date do the tyres have to be changed? What happens if you are caught driving on summer tyres in winter? We provide an overview of the law on winter tyres in Germany.
Is there an obligation to fit winter tyres in Germany?
The statutory provisions on the obligation to fit winter tyres In Germany were updated in 2010. There is now a so-called ‘situational winter tyre obligation’.
This means that the obligation to run a vehicle on winter tyres does not apply with reference to a particular date, but instead depends on the weather conditions.
The winter tyre obligation applies in winter conditions including ice and black ice, frost, snow and slush.
In such weather conditions only tyres which have the sign ‘M + S’ (mud and snow tyres) on the side wall may be used. Winter tyres and all-season tyres with this symbol are acceptable. Many of these tyres also display a symbol of a three-peaked mountain with an inset snow flake.
When should you fit winter tyres?
As the legal obligation to fit winter tyres in Germany is dependent on the weather, it can be difficult for drivers to know exactly when to change their tyres.
German lawyer Tatiana Orfanakou of WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE offers some guidance: “As the weather conditions can change rapidly, I would advise to avoid problems of being caught out by fitting winter tyres from the 1st November until Easter.
What about rental vehicles?
“As far as rental vehicles are concerned, rental companies are not obliged to fit winter tyres. To minimise the risk of accidents, drivers should make sure they explicitly ask the rental company for a vehicle that is fitted with winter tyres,” Orfanakou warns.
What is the punishment for not fitting winter tyres?
“If drivers are caught running a vehicle in winter weather conditions on summer tyres, they will receive a fine of €40. If a driver endangers other road users, the fine increases to €80 and the driver will also receive one point on their driving licence
“In addition, a driver who causes an accident as a result of failing to fit winter tyres will have problems with their insurance.
Fully comprehensive insurers will argue that they are entitled to refuse part of the insurance payment as a result of the driver’s gross negligence. It is also conceivable that third-party insurers will also attempt to refuse part of the insurance payment,” Orfanakou explains.
What if the vehicle is in the garage for the winter?
Regarding vehicles which remain in the garage, Orfanakou clarifies, “If the vehicle remains in the garage for the winter, the owner has nothing to worry about. Fines are only handed down if a driver operates the vehicle on summer tyres in winter conditions”
To avoid being caught out by a sudden change in weather conditions, drivers should ensure that they fit winter tyres to their vehicles early.
If the cost of changing the tyres is too high or if you only use your vehicle infrequently, you could consider using public transport.
Another option is to buy winter tyres together with the rims. This way, you can save money by changing the tyres yourself when the winter season ends. You can then store the winter tyres and rims ready for use next year.
Tatiana Orfanakou has one last tip, this time for motorcyclists: “The winter tyre obligation applies to you too.”
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