It’s official: winter is here. While the snow is fun and picturesque, it can also make for hazardous road conditions — especially if you have never driven in snow. Whether you are a winter-driving newbie or an old pro, here is a quick guide to winter road readiness.
Winter POV checklist
- Vehicle check-up. Consider an inspection to ensure your vehicle is in peak operating condition for winter’s worst. Auto Skills Centers on Tower and Rose Barracks or any auto shop on the economy will evaluate critical functions, such as battery, brakes and windshield wipers, and offer to repair parts.
- Winter tires. German law mandates that winter or all-season tires with an official M+S (mud and snow) or three-peak mountain symbol bu used for hazardous wintry conditions. A good guideline to follow is the “O to O” rule, which recommends that drivers install winter tires from October to Ostern, or Easter. German Polizei may fine drivers without appropriate tires up to 80 euros.
- Snow chains. Snow chains are required in some mountainous regions of Germany. The mandatory use of snow chains is indicated by a circular blue sign with a chained tire image.
Other useful winter items
- Ice scraper and brush. These items are used to remove the accumulation of ice and snow on your windshield, mirrors and windows.
- De-icing windshield spray. The night before an anticipated winter mix, spray the surfaces of your vehicle with a high quality product designed to prevent the formation of ice. Simple formulas involving a few household ingredients are also an option.
- Snow shovel. While you are not expected to shovel the community road, but you may need to clear the area around your vehicle.
- Sand and Tiegen-Eisfrei. When the temperature drops below freezing—as it often does overnight—a layer of ice forms over many ground surfaces. Apply sand to the sidewalks, steps and street around your house to prevent slips and vehicle skids. Road salt is strictly prohibited in Germany and the garrison. Tiefen-Eisfrei, an environmentally friendly deicing product, is permitted and may be used to cover patches of ice.
Before you go
- Clear your driveway and sidewalk. Off-post residents in leased housing and private rentals are responsible for snow and ice removal in their driveways and on public sidewalks bordering their home from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Permitted de-icing products, such as sand and Tiefen-Eisfrei, are available at USAG Bavaria Self-Help and AAFES locations, as well as off-post hardware stores. For more on what Self-Help offers, visit www.bavaria.army.mil/SelfHelp.
- Remove snow and ice. German law requires that drivers remove as much snow and ice as possible, particularly from windows, mirrors and headlights. Make sure you have maximum visibility — no peephole driving — and that your vehicle does not present a hazard to other drivers. If accumulation is heavy, also remove snow from the roof, trunk and hood so that large chunks do not fly off towards other drivers. Police can stop you and impose fines if your vehicle is determined unsafe to you or others.
- Check weather and road conditions. Go to www.bavaria.army.mil, select road conditions in the right-hand column and review conditions, school closures and weather reports to determine whether a trip is worth the risk. A 24/7 “Weather & Roads” hotline is also available to those without internet. Call DSN 475-7623, CIV 09641-83-7623 in Grafenwoehr and Vilseck; DSN 466-4001, CIV 09742-83-4001 in Hohenfels; and DSN 440-3300, CIV 08821-750-3300 in Garmisch.
Driving in snow
- Drive slowly. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it is perhaps the single most important driving adjustment for inclement weather. It is often difficult to determine where patches of ice develop or when a mix of slush will send your tires sideways. Operate vehicle functions smoothly, particularly during turns and braking, and gradually accelerate and decelerate. Give yourself a few extra minutes of travel time.
- Following distance. Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Your car may require more than twice the amount of time and space than usual to perform unexpected stops or maneuvers.
- Avoid parking on poorly treated hills if possible. While driving, use momentum gained before the incline, and apply slight pressure to the accelerator if necessary. Do not stop on a hill.
- Tire skidding. Watch out for icy patches, especially on bridges, overpasses and heavily wooded areas. To prevent skidding, drive slowly and make gentle turns. If your vehicle skids, take your foot off the accelerator or brake and continue to steer in the desired direction. For more winter driving tips, check out the garrison Safety Office’s winter driving tips.
- Emergency set-up. If your vehicle is disabled for any reason, make sure you are visible to other drivers. Turn on the emergency flashers, put on a high-visibility vest and set up the warning triangle 100 meters behind the vehicle, or 200 meters if on the autobahn.
- Breakdown or other mechanical failure. If your vehicle breaks down off-post and you end up on the side of the road, call ADAC, a German road-side assistance service, at 0180-22-222. They provide basic vehicle support for free to both members and non-members. Towing and replacement of parts, however, is subject to charges. For issues on the autobahn, public telephones are also available at two-kilometer intervals. If you experience car troubles on post, call the Military Police for assistance at DSN 114, CIV 09641-83-114 in Grafenwoehr and 09662-83-114 in Vilseck.
- Accidents. Major and minor accidents, including personal injuries or property damage, must be reported to the Military Police for on-post incidents and both the Military Police and German Polizei for all off-post damages. Be sure to take photos and exchange contact and insurance information with all involved parties. Do not leave the scene in the event of property damage or injury. “Hit and runs” are a criminal offense and punishable by German law and UCMJ.
What to do when you hit a deer in Bavaria
Check out our “What to do when you hit a deer in Bavaria” for a complete set of guidelines. But here’s what you need to know.
When you hit a dear on-post, move the car to the side of the road, put up a warning triangle (required in all POV’s while stationed in Germany) and call the military police. They will contact the Forest Office.
And here’s what to do when you hit a deer off-post:
- Move the car to the side of the road if possible.
- Do not leave the scene. Put up a warning triangle.
- Call the German police at 110 and let them know what happened. If a person gets injured call the hospital emergency line as well.
- When the police arrive, fill out an accident report for your insurance. Use your mobile phone and take a few snap shots. This will help you with your insurance claim.
- Once the police get there they will notify the hunter that is in charge of that area and will take care of the deer.
- File a claim with your insurance company, it depends on your insurance whether you are covered or not and which steps to take.
You should never wait until the next day to call the police, according to ADAC, the German auto club that provides roadside assistance and air rescue. Your insurance will likely only cover your damage if you contact the police right away.