New rules for Winter Tyres

A new law in Germany has tightened the rules on the types of tyres that you can use in winter.

Until now, the law only said that you had to have “suitable” tyres for the road conditions, but did not actually specify that you had to have winter tyres on in winter.  Indeed, many people with good tread on their summer tyres continued to use them throughout the winter, and would probably argue that they were suitable as long as the main roads were clear.

The trouble was, that unless they caused an accident, the police were as good as powerless to argue against them, so the politicians were under pressure to amend the law to get things clarified.

Unfortunately, they made quite a mess of it. 

For a start, they only agreed on it at the end of November, giving many people only a few days to change the tyres on their cars before it came into effect.

It would not have been so bad, if it wasn’t for the fact that the first snow was already on the ground.  At that is still part of the problem – the new rules still only apply for particular road conditions, ie. when there is snow, ice, slush, black ice, and a number of other variants of frozen water on the ground.

M+S symbol

The M+S symbol

But the real problem is going to be the types of tyres that are allowed.  These have been defined as tyres showing the “M+S” logo.  M+S stands for “mud and snow” (or Matsch und Schnee in German), and the use of it on tyres is not standardised.

So apparently there are winter tyres available, that offer better grip on snow than many of the ones with the M+S Logo, but do not themselves have it on them.  Likewise, there are summer tyres that do have M+S on them, because the manufacturer has decided that they can be used in winter – and in other countries very possibly they are.

A variante on the M+S symbol with the snow-flake symbol

Another form of the M+S symbol, note the snow flake next to it showing the tyre adhers to the NHTSA traction standard for snow and ice

Not having the logo on your tyres means that you can be fined 40EUR (unless, of course, you just don’t use the car!) or 80EUR if you cause an obstruction to traffic as a result.

It is also worth noting that foreign cars are not exempt of the law, so if you visit Germany during the winter, you may need to check the symbols on your tyres.  However, if you do fit winter tyres to your car in the UK, just make sure that your insurance does not charge you extra for the privilege.


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About Graham

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Germany as a placement student in 1993, returning in 1995 to live there permanently. He has been writing for since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche and other publications he works as a self-employed IT consultant and online community manager. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.


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