A German federal law that took effect in November of 2010 mandates the use of winter tires when conditions are icy.
The law does not specify specific dates, according to ADAC, the German auto club that provides roadside assistance and air rescue. Many German drivers, however, abide by the general rule of “von O bis O” (from O to O), which means snow tires should be put on in October and remain on until Ostern (Easter).
You may be asking: What kind of winter tires does the German law require? First of all it is very important to look for certain signs placed on the tire.
European winter tires have two kinds of markings: a snowflake for snow tires or M+S for tires designed to work in mud and snow, or “matsch und schnee” in German. All-season or all-weather tires may also have the M+S marking and are acceptable for winter driving, but tires designed specifically for snow function better than all-weather tires, according to a U.S. Army Europe winter driving fact sheet.
The law also apply to motorbikes, trucks and buses, regardless of whether the driver is the owner or is renting the vehicle.
To drive in Germany — no matter the road conditions — ensure you have a tire tread depth of at least 1.6 millimeters. The best is to have 4 millimeters, according to ADAC. A one euro coin can be used for a quick “tread check.” When placed in the tire’s tread, you should not be able to see the golden edge of the coin. If you can, the tire needs to be replaced.
U.S. law requires tires to have easy-to-see tread wear indicator bars running from one side of their tread design to the other when the tire’s tread has worn down to the minimum legal limit of 2/32 inch, according to the USAG Bavaria Safety Office.
In some parts of Germany, particularly in the southern mountainous region, it is recommended to carry snow chains. Know how to put them on before you need them and make sure you don’t exceed 50 kph when driving with them on.
If you’re unsure if other countries have similar tire laws, check the European Road Safety website. And for more on winter driving, check out the Army Europe Drivers Handbook and Examination Manual for Germany.
Remember, if you don’t follow there requirements you can receive a ticket of €80 or higher. If you have questions, contact the USAG Bavaria Safety office at DSN 475-1470, CIV 09641-83-1470
Be smart and drive safe Bavaria!