KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Shorter days and cooler temperatures indicate the inevitable end of summer is just over the horizon. U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz encourages community members to start getting ready for winter weather now by acquiring the proper tires for their vehicles.

What kind of tires are needed?
German law mandates the use of either snow tires or all-terrain mud and snow tires when conditions are icy. A new requirement as of January 2018 states all snow or M+S tires be marked with the "Alpine symbol," a three-peak mountain with a snowflake inside of it. Tires purchased prior to January 2018 without the Alpine symbol may continue to be used until 2024.
According to the USAG RP Safety Office, tires must have at least 1.6 millimeters of tread depth, but for maximum safety tires with less than four millimeters should be replaced. 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 tires needs to be replaced. Tires with spikes and studs are not allowed in Germany.

When are winter tires needed?
There are no specific dates for the use of winter tires, but Germans often adhere to the saying, "von O bis O," meaning October to Ostern (Easter). However, it is important to keep in mind that you can be cited for driving in winter conditions without appropriate tires even outside of these months. Any time snow conditions are present, the requirement for snow tires is federal law.

Can tire chains be used in Germany?
In some areas snow chains may be required, but only as directed by road signs or police. The maximum speed while driving a vehicle with chains is 50 kilometers per hour.

What are the penalties for driving without winter tires?
Fines of 40 euros and higher will be enforced for drivers without correct tires on their vehicles. The USAG RP Safety Office advised that police can assign blame to a motorist involved in a winter accident whose car does not have snow tires installed, regardless of who caused the accident.

What about rental cars?
It is the driver's responsibility to ensure that the rental vehicle is in roadworthy condition, which includes the proper tires. USAG RP Safety Office recommended drivers request winter tires when reserving a car and verify the tires are installed before accepting the car.

Drivers shopping for winter tires locally may find that certain vehicles' tires need to be ordered online. Make sure online orders are placed with regards to shipping times so that your car is equipped before the winter weather hits and, wherever you choose to buy tires, double check that the tires have the required Alpine symbol.

Road conditions on military installations are posted on the Installation Management Command-Europe Road Conditions website at https://home.army.mil/roads. A quick link to this site is located on the garrison website at https://home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz.