The police cannot force you to drive on winter tyres

The Polish Tyre Industry Association together with the Polish Automotive Industry Association and the Association of Car Dealers point out that passenger and commercial cars should be able to undergo seasonal tyre replacement even during the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the media have already written about cases of police fining drivers who went to replace tyres in cars that they commute to work every day in, also during the pandemic. The attitude of drivers, who even in this difficult period think about how to get to work safely and not burden the health care system with the effects of an accident, deserve the respect of the state authorities, not punishment. PTIA, PAIA and ACD appeal to police not to punish drivers for replacing tyres in safe services. In a letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of the entire automotive industry, organizations demand recognition of seasonal tyre replacement as meeting the definition of everyday needs[1].

When caring for their own safety and the safety of others during the coronavirus pandemic, Poles spend most of their time at home, without contact with people besides their loved ones. However, there are a significant group of people whose nature of work does not allow them to work from home and they must transport themselves to it – in most cases they do that by car. Similar journeys are made by everyone who must go to a store from time to time to get the most important products and groceries.

Winter tyres, on which a significant number of drivers still drive, are not suitable for temperatures above 10-15ºC. They have a tread adapted to autumn and winter weather, not spring and summer. What’s more, a softer tread compound at temperatures as the ones we currently experience does not provide traction on dry roads.

Different tread structure and rubber compound are not the only differences between summer and winter tyres. According to tests by the ADAC organization, the braking distance of a car on winter tyres in summer from 100 km/h to a complete stop can be up to 16 meters longer than that of a car on summer tyres. This is four lengths of an average car. The higher the tread depth of winter tyres and the higher asphalt temperatures, the greater the differences. What’s more, already at a temperature of +11°C, a car on budget class winter tyres, used by over 44% of drivers (data for 2019), brakes nearly 2m further than a car on summer tyres does[2].

Hospitals are already overloaded – we cannot risk a wave of accidents occuring in the coming months, caused by driving on tyres not suitable to the season. The continuity of deliveries of products to stores – done by commercial vehicles – also depends on allowing seasonal tyre replacement.

– We have been informed that some policemen give tickets for a visit to a tyres service to replace tyres – this is very alarming. Poor condition of tyres is responsible for many dangerous situations on the road – in Germany as much as 30% of accidents caused by poor technical condition of the vehicle are related to tyres – says Piotr Sarnecki, general director of the Polish Tyre Industry Association (PTIA). –The association has prepared guidelines for tyre services on how to maintain the safety of customers and employees during the pandemic. The ban on seasonal tyre changes in no way improves road safety. By following the guidelines of services, drivers will be more likely to have a collision or accident when driving on the wrong tyres than to be infected with coronavirus – adds Sarnecki.

Jakub Faryś, president of the Polish Automotive Industry Association points out that the transport of people and goods plays a key role during an epidemic. Vehicles should be safe, functional and prepared to fulfil an important social function. When maintaining strict procedures of personal safety, replacing tyres in a car workshop is as safe as, e.g. shopping.

Organizations note that, among others, Bavarian authorities have allowed the change to summer tyres – while maintaining safety rules – because this has a significant impact on road safety. In the USA, even in this difficult period of a coronavirus pandemic, car services are included in the list of critical infrastructure and their use is allowed.

– We hope that giving tickets for seasonal tyre changes during this period will remain incidental and police officers will receive clear instructions to recognize a visit to a car workshop for this purpose as meeting the definition of everyday needs. This activity – as it increases road safety – is absolutely subject to the above definition – says Sarnecki.

Tyres are the only point of contact of every vehicle with the road – their condition and quality have a direct impact on the level of road safety. The car’s behaviour as well as the grip and braking distance of each vehicle depend on their quality and condition.


[1] The ones specified in §5a paragraph 1 point 2) of Council of Ministers regulations of 31 March 2020 On the establishment of certain restrictions, orders and bans in connection with the outbreak

[2] F. Markiewicz, KJ. Waluś, J. Polasik – “Experimental study of kinematic features of vehicle movement using winter and summer tyres” – Logistics 5/2014 – for the same path and braking speed

This post is also available in: plpolski (Polish)