Motorists must recognize winter dangers

With the beginning of fall, motorists have to change their driving habits. Streets are getting more slippery due to rain and falling leaves, and dense fog can impact visibility. Now motorists should consider putting on snow tires.
“Since May 1, 2006, the German traffic regulation requires equipment that is adjusted to the weather conditions,” said Arno Heeling from the Westpfalz Police Headquarters in Kaiserslautern. This means, on snow and ice, vehicles must be equipped with snow tires or all-weather tires. Motorists get a fine of €20 Euro, if they get caught by Polizei without the proper tires. If they impact traffic, for example, can’t make it up a hill and block the road, the fine goes up to €40. “Some people think that a brand new summer tire is still better on snow than a winter tire already a few years old,” said Mr. Heeling. “But this is not true, since it all depends on the tire’s rubber mixture.”

When temperatures drop below 7 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit), snow tires demonstrate their good qualities. Summer tires harden in cold weather and lose their grip. Snow tires should not be older than six to eight years and the tread should be at least four millimeters or 0.16 inches. Drivers who are unsure about the quality of their tires, should make a stop at the tire shop and have them checked.

In case of an accident due to the wrong tires, auto insurances can refuse to pay for the damage.
Drivers also must add anti-freeze to their windshield wiper fluid and check the blades and the lights.
In cold months the following rules have to be obeyed:

• All car windows, the top, trunk and hood have to get cleared of snow and ice before driving. Besides a €10 fine, car insurance considers a joint liability in case of an accident. Also, sheets of ice flying off of vehicles are considered a traffic hazard and result in a €10 fine.
• Motorists cannot idle their cars and leave their motors running unattended to warm it up. Causing exhaust pollution and unnecessary noise in the early morning is fineable at a minimum of €10.
• Motorists must always adjust their speed to the weather conditions. Driving in an anticipated way helps to avoid severe consequences.

“Traffic signs loaded with snow cause another danger in winter,” said Mr. Heeling. “People from the area should know their signs and others should recognize them by their shape and size; special caution is requested.”
Drivers should ensure their vehicles are properly winterized. For the inspection checklist, call 480-7233 (SAFE).   (Courtesy of Westpfalz Police Headquarters and Ramstein Law Center).