Winter tyres – how does it look like in Europe?

Without a clear obligation in the regulations, we will not reduce the number of accidents in winter
In 29 European countries that have introduced a requirement to drive on winter or all-season tyres, the legislator specifies the period or conditions of such regulations. Most of them are specific calendar dates – such regulations exist in as many as 16 countries. Only 2 countries have this obligation defined by road conditions. Specifying the date of the requirement is the best solution in this case – it is a clear and precise provision, leaving no doubts. Such regulations should also be introduced in Poland from December 1st to March 1st. As many as 82% of drivers expect, that the legislator will finally pass the requirement of winter-approved tires [1].

– Why does introducing such a requirement change everything? Because drivers have a clearly defined deadline and do not have to ask whether to change tyres or not yet. In Poland, this weather date is December 1. Since then, temperatures throughout the country are below 5-7 degrees C – and this is the limit when good grip of summer tyres ends. Even if a few days the temperature will be around 10-15 degrees C – modern winter tyres, and especially all-season tyres, will be a lower risk in the next drop in temperature underlines Piotr Sarnecki, General Director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA).

In the countries, where implemented the requirement to drive winter tyres, there has been an average 46% reduction in the probability of a road accident compared to driving summer tyres in winter conditions – these are the conclusions of the European Commission study of selected aspects of tyre use related to safety[2]. This report also proved that introducing a legal requirement to drive on winter-approved tyres reduces the number of fatal accidents by 3% – and this is just an average as there are countries that have seen a 20% drop in accidents. In all countries that require winter tyres, this also includes all-season tyres.

Requirements of winter tyres in Europe:



Calendar obligation

(specified by different dates)

Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia Sweden, Finland
Belarus, Russia, Norway, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldavia, Macedonia, Turkey

An obligation depending only on weather conditions

Germany, Luxemburg

Mixed obligation calendar-wheather

Austria, Croatia, Romania, Slovakia

An obligation imposed by signs

Spain, France, Italy

The driver's obligation to adapt the car to winter and the financial consequences of causing an accident with summer tyres

Switzerland, Liechtenstein

Poland is the only country in the European Union with such a climate where the regulations do not provide for the requirement to drive winter or all-season tyres in autumn and winter conditions. Workshop observations still show that as many as 1/3, i.e. about 6 million drivers, drive summer tyres in winter[3]. This indicates that there should be clear rules – from which date such tyres should be fitted to a car. Every year, for several decades, over 3,000 people die on Polish roads and almost half a million accidents and road collisions occur. We all pay our bills for this data with rising insurance rates.

Summer tyres do not provide adequate adhesion of the car even on a dry road at temperatures below 7ºC - then the rubber compound in their tread hardens, which deteriorates the grip, especially on wet, slippery roads. The braking distance is lengthened and the ability to transmit torque to the road surface is significantly reduced[4]. The rubber compound of the tread of winter and all-season tyres is softer, and thanks to silica, it does not harden at lower temperatures. This means that they do not lose elasticity and have better grip than summer tyres in cold weather, even on a dry road, in rain, and especially on snow.

Recordings from Auto Express and RAC tests on winter tyres[5] show how much tyres adequate to the temperature, humidity and slippery surface help the driver to control the vehicle and confirm the difference between winter and summer tyres – not only on snowy roads, but also on wet roads while cool autumn and winter temperatures:

Remember that approved winter and all-season tyres are those with the so-called alpine symbol – snowflake on mountain background. The M + S symbol, which can still be found on the tyres, is only a description of the suitability of the tread for mud and snow, however, it is given discretionally by tyre manufacturers. Tyres with M + S alone, but without the snow flake symbol on the mountain, lack the softer winter rubber compound - which is crucial in cold conditions. A self-contained M + S without an Alpine symbol means that the tyre is neither a winter nor an all-season tyre.


[1] Moto Data Research, Research of cars’ users, 2020

[2] European Commission, Study on some safety-related aspects of tyre use,

[4] K. Waluś, Experimental tests of the hardness of summer car tyres in real ambient temperatures, Mechanic 12/2013 – Attachement 4

[5] Winter Tyres v Summer Tyres: the Truth! - Auto Express,

Source: Polish Tyre Industry Association