Correct Driving During the Winter Period

This article will explore all you need to know for driving legally and safely during the cold period of winter. You will read about correct tiring and when your car insurance will not cover the costs for any damages to others due to your driving in the winter.
– get the right tires !

Whoever wants to be safely on the way in snow, ice and mud, should already be thinking of changing tires; as winter tires are recommended and not only for safety reasons. Motorists, who drive with summer tires on public streets in the winter, risk not only their life but also a hefty fine; and with an accident, this can even cost you your insurance coverage – gross negligence causing the accident. This article shows you how to get through the winter lawfully and safely.

Winter tires – Duty or not?

Since last year, §2 IIIa StVO determines:

"The equipment of motor vehicles is to be adjusted in accordance to the weather. Such is especially suitable tires and antifreeze in the windshield wiper’s water. …”

This regulation admittedly does not constitute any general duty to mount winter tires. However, violations are punished with fines because you have the duty to do what is in your ability to prevent damage to others. Whoever is on an icy roadway with summer tires, for example, must expect a cautionary fine of € 20. If a traffic hindrance occurs because of the insufficient tires, consider a fine of € 40 together with a point in Flensburg.

Winter and all-year-tires that are either marked with “M+S” or a snowflake and have a minimum-profile-depth of 1.6 mm are suitable for the cold season. Traffic experts recommend a minimum profile of at least 4 mm, because the grip to the road will only then be guaranteed sufficiently. Furthermore, the tires should not be older than six years. The car must have at least four winter tires mounted; a mixture with summer tires is not sufficient, just as are snow chains on summer tires. The difference between summer and winter tires lies in the rubber of the tires. Winter tires are produced from a thermo-elastic rubber mixture so that they remain sufficiently soft with icy cold temperatures and the characteristically jagged tread provides good road contact and braking.

Impacts on Insurance Coverage

A trip without a vehicle equipped with winterproofing, can void your car insurance coverage. As decided by OLG Frankfurt a.M.: driving with summer tires in the mountains constitutes a grossly negligent behavior. It is generally known that winter-tires are absolutely necessary in certain altitudes (re: 3 U 186/02).

Your car always has to be completely freed from snow and ice before the trip. This is applicable above all to "peepholes". The same is true for the headlights, because otherwise they cannot be seen in traffic, or they blind other traffic with their scattered light. When your license plate is not recognizable you will be fined when caught.

In the winter besides the usual emergency equipment, like warning triangle, first aid kit, and warn vest, also a starter cable should be carried along as well as a warm wool blanket and a snow shovel. Keep the anti-ice spray in your handbag or briefcase (but never leave it in your car!) as it should not be missing either.


Not only winter tires belong to appropriate equipment of a vehicle but also sufficient antifreeze in the windshield wash and an ice scraper. Driving with a frosted windshield is also subject to a fine.

Snow-chains and Co.

Especially in hilly areas, snow-chains are recommended. When purchased or rented, ensure that the snow chains also fit the mounted winter tires because they are different for different types of tires. Incidentally: With snow-chains, you may drive up to 50 km/hr at most; this is to enable you to react to a suddenly appearing obstacles in time. Practice at home to mount snow chains outdoors when it is cold and dark – and not first in the case of an accident.

Beside the car equipment, most important is to drive according to the weather conditions.

!! Keep in mind, winter tires are to be used from Halloween to Easter !!


Related Articles:

Winter Tires? How not to Skid


Reifendirekt – get the right tires for your car !

Additional information