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WINTER

December 1st means winter tyres for Sweden’s drivers

Winter tyres are required by law in Sweden from December 1st in wintry conditions.

December 1st means winter tyres for Sweden's drivers
Photo: Erik Johansen/NTB Scanpix/TT

Although the Swedish Transport Administration advised drivers to begin using winter tyres (with a tread depth of at least three millimetres) in October, it becomes mandatory from December 1st to used winter tyres when there is considered to be a risk of snow or ice on the road.

That means the services of tyre companies are in high demand as motorists wait until the last minute to change their tyres, according to Mattias Hjort, head of research with the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI).

“Tyre companies tend to be overlooked around this time,” Hjort said.

“Our recommendations are always to not wait until the last minute, because a lot of accidents happen during the period when winter is setting it,” he added.

Debate over the winter tyre law, which came into effect in 1999, often revolves around which type of tyres is most suitable for the cold conditions, while the regulation itself is questioned less often, Hjort said.

“It has not really been in question since we got the winter tyre law almost 20 years ago,” he said.

“There was a clear effect on accident rates after just one or two years,” he added.

Swedish law states that all cars must be equipped with winter tyres between December 1st and March 31st if the weather conditions require it.

If your car doesn't have them or if they are not up to scratch (the tread depth is at least three millimetres), you risk a fine of 1,200 kronor.

Winter tyres radically decrease the risk of skidding and improve a vehicle's overall braking capacity on slippery surfaces, reducing the risk of accidents. There are two categories of winter tyre: studded and stud-free.

Studded winter tyres are allowed between October 1st and April 15th, or in wintry driving conditions.

In general, studded tyres are better suited for icy roads or on surfaces with hard-packed snow, while stud-free tyres work better on roads with soft snow. However, studded tyres are illegal on some streets in major Swedish cities for air pollution reasons.

Winter road conditions apply when there is snow, slush or ice on the road, according to the Swedish Transport Agency.

READ ALSO: Sweden essentials: the best winter driving tips to stay safe on the road

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DRIVING

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.

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