Guide: Travel safely in ice and snow

Winter has already arrived in parts of Germany. For drivers, the cold season means above all adapting their driving style to the weather conditions. And that begins even before the start, as the Automobile Club of Germany emphasizes.

If it has snowed or frozen, the windows must be cleared of snow or ice all around before starting the journey. This also applies to the roof and the hood. This is the only way to ensure good all-round visibility. After starting the engine, the air conditioning should be activated immediately. This helps to dehumidify the interior air and thus reduces the tendency for the windows to fog up.

There is already a risk of ice from temperatures below three degrees. That means increased attention. The speed should be reduced accordingly and a larger safety distance should be maintained. If the drive wheels lack grip when driving off and they spin, the AvD recommends starting off in second gear with manual transmissions with well-dosed operation of the clutch and accelerator pedal so that the engine does not stall.

When driving, the attention is not only on other road users, but also on the road surface. Dark patches on the road can indicate icy conditions and glittering reflections are a sign of frost. If the road actually turns out to be slippery, you have to stay calm, avoid large steering movements and reduce your speed – if possible without using the brakes. It is better to take your foot off the gas and let the car roll. In cars with a manual gearbox, the clutch is also pressed.

On snow-covered roads, driving cars often create a bulge of snow between the lanes that has to be overcome when changing lanes. This requires a high level of concentration and a cool head. Before the actual change of lane is initiated, it is best to increase the speed in your own lane a little, then take your foot off the gas and let the car roll gently over the fast accumulation into the neighboring lane. In a car with a manual transmission, disengaging the clutch helps so that the tires can develop more lateral support. Important: Changing lanes on snow-covered roads takes significantly more time and takes place over a significantly longer distance than when it is wet or dry. Therefore, the right track should be taken as early as possible.

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Cars can slide in ice or snow, especially when cornering. Then the following applies: disengage the clutch, take your foot off the gas and take back the steering angle. In most cases, a slight steering correction is enough to get the car back on the desired line.

Above all, it is important to put on winter tires when it is cold. Although they are not mandatory in Germany, anyone who drives with unsuitable tires in bad weather faces a fine. For example, if the car becomes a traffic obstruction or even involved in an accident, there is a risk of fines and points in the Flensburg register of traffic offenders. All tires that bear the alpine symbol (stylized mountain with a snowflake) on the tire sidewall are legally considered to be winter tires. All-season tires can also be used. Even if the legislator only prescribes 1.6 millimeters, traffic experts recommend a minimum tread depth of four millimeters for winter tires. Incidentally, in Austria all tires with a tread depth of less than four millimeters are considered summer tires – regardless of whether they have the snowflake on them or not. There is a fine for winter tires with too little residual profile. (awm)

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