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Fatal pile-up blamed on lax new winter-tyre law

Published: 16 Jan 2013 16:43 GMT+01:00

“The lack of winter tyres on trucks is one of the reasons this accident happened. The new law is not good enough,” Jon Stenbeck, spokesman for the Swedish Automobile Association (Motormännens Riksförbund), told The Local.

Since January 1st, heavy vehicles only need winter tyres on the wheels receiving power from the engine, and only when they are driven in winter conditions.

Effectively, a truck driver can forego replacing the tyres during winter if the weather stays clear and the road conditions don't become hazardous.

A road covered in “snow, ice, sludge or frost” is the official definition of a hazardous surface, according to the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen).

It is up to local police to say when those conditions apply.

RELATED PHOTO GALLERY: Pictures from the scene of the crash

Stenbeck warns that the law is near impossible to enforce with the hundreds of shipments from Europe entering southern Sweden.

“People don’t know when the weather will be bad and it’s expensive to change the tyres," he said.

"Drivers don't follow the law and police in southern Sweden's Skåne county don’t have the resources to check every single lorry that comes into the country.”

For increased safety, he argues that heavy vehicles should have the special traction tyres on every single wheel and for the duration of winter.

Local police, however, claim there’s been no need to check the winter tyres of any trucks yet, as the roads have been safe and clear ever since the new law was passed.

“We’ve not had reason to enforce the law until Tuesday's accident,” Lars Förstell of the Skåne police told The Local.

“The law only applies when the roads are slippery. People can decide if they want to change their tyres in winter or not, but you can only drive around with normal tyres if the weather is good.”

Förstell refused to comment on whether a lack of winter tyres contributed to the accident.

“We’re not going to debate theories, we’re investigating details. We've only just started to gather information,” he said.

Police described Tuesday's mass crash as chaotic, with several drivers having to be cut out of their mangled cars. Initial reports said several people had died, but the death tally was downgraded to one fatality.

Photographs from the scene showed the dense fog that contributed to poor visibility, and lines of cars and trucks spilling haphazardously across the lanes of the low bridge near Helsingborg.

The extensive damage following the pile-up was not limited to just the vehicles involved. Response teams are currently checking the bridge itself for cracks, according to Sweden’s Traffic Agency (Trafikverket).

“They’re investigating the bridge itself right now, checking for safety and working on a prognosis for when it can be reopened. We have no estimates yet for when that may be,” Roger Falk at the agency told The Local.

“We’ve been clearing the bridge since the accident and have been working throughout the night.”

The accident occurred just before midday on the Tranarp Bridge just northeast of Helsingborg, and the roads in both directions have been shut down since.

The bridge is just 30 kilometres from the a ferry line Denmark and Sweden, and lies on the E4, a popular route for shipments from Europe to Sweden and Norway.

A spokesperson at Trafikverket explained that it was the responsibility of such truck drivers to ensure they were abiding by Swedish road rules when entering the country.

“Heavy vehicles are supposed to have winter tyres, and drivers from other countries should understand this,” Monica Näslund told The Local.

"It’s Swedish law and it’s up to them to know this before entering the country."

Truck drivers further north in Sweden, where the temperatures are lower and the roads are more likely to be hazardous, have long preferred winter tyres, according to Stenbeck at Motormännen.

He believes other motorists driving in Sweden can learn from these drivers, as well as from Tuesday’s accident.

“Cars with good winter tyres are simply easier to drive in these conditions. The lack of winter tyres and excessive speed are most likely the reasons behind the accident,” he told The Local.

“People need to take their time when driving. This is an educational thing - winter tyres are hugely important.”

Oliver Gee

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Your comments about this article

17:07 January 16, 2013 by engagebrain
An insane change in the law - almost designed to be unenforceable - police can only check lorries when there is snow or ice on the roads, times when the are probably just trying to keep traffick moving Even then trailer does not need snow tyres

Do lorry drivers pull over and change their tyres when they hit snow, or do they just press on and hope not to crash ?

And the penalty for not having snow tyres is what a 5 sek fine ?
18:50 January 16, 2013 by J Jack
"The bridge is just 30 kilometres from the Öresund Bridge" , WRONG .. It's 98 km between the bridges.
19:41 January 16, 2013 by johan rebel
Great, here we go again!

First they blame the weather, now the tires. Nothing whatoeover wrong with the drivers, of course.
23:29 January 16, 2013 by Eddieb261
as an englishman living in Sweden.. it never fails to amaze me the way some people drive here when its snowing... I can only assume they think that winter tyres make them immune to anything like skidding or slipping... regularly they overtake me in excess of 120 km... when there is heavy snow.... i dont go over 80 at most in conditions... they are all mad....
06:38 January 17, 2013 by jimfromcanada
Just make it mandatory to use snow tyres from Nov 1 to May 31st for all vehicles. It will reduce the accident rate and reduce the number of times you have to get shovelled out of a snow drift.
08:53 January 18, 2013 by karex
#4 I agree with you. Worse when a car creeps up close behind me impatient to pass, sometimes they do crazy things while overtaking too.

There has been debate over the past couple of years or so about not allowing studded winter tires any more. This accident if indeed caused by black ice is one clear example of what can happen if studded tires are prohibited. Unstudded snow tires are only effective on snow, not ice. You need studs for ice and even so, if the ice is deep enough the studs will not have such a large effect.

I lost my car last winter on a 20-meter patch of deep ice where recent rains had flooded the road (bad drainage) and then there was a sudden freeze and light snow which hid the ice beneath it. Plus the local authorities had decided not to salt some roads to "save money". Unfortunately, this ice patch started on a tight curve. I had studded tires and took that curve well under 40 km/hr and it still didn't help. The road was narrow, with no shoulder to speak of and no guard-rail around a deep drop-off towards the outside of the curve. Because my speed was so low it was a gentle roll-over and I came out without a scratch or even a bruise but it still totaled my car. Had I been driving the insane speeds that I see some people drive in winter, I would most certainly have lost my life.
08:11 January 19, 2013 by Mijnforum
And what about using a mobilephone ( not handsfree) and drive at the same time ????

If I should get paid for every as**** who was talking on the phone and driving at the same time and almost push me from the road.....I'll be rich !

A carcrash I was in because of a driver on the phone , during snowfall , that lost control of his lättlastbil and crashed into me frontally.
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