Drivers can continue to choose what type of winter tyres to use on roads of Southern Finland
Ministry nevertheless proposes reductions in number of studs per tyre
The Ministry of Transport and Communications does not see a need to declare Southern Finland a zone free of studded winter tyres.
Despite the winters that have become milder and the ample salting of the streets, the ministry feels drivers should still have the right to use their own consideration when choosing winter tyres.
“No attitude has been formulated, according to which drivers should be forced to only use the so-called friction tyres and not studded tyres on the roads and streets of Southern Finland”, says Kari Saari, Senior Adviser Vehicles at the Ministry.
”The problem is that the vehicles do not just remain in the Helsinki area. Some people drive elsewhere as well, and in a long country like Finland the weather conditions may vary greatly from one place to the next”, Saari reasons.
Saari reckons that at the moment around 80 per cent of the cars are equipped with studded winter tyres.
Due to the recent rainy winters, however, the Ministry of Transport and Communications is preparing to ease the regulations on studded tyres.
In a fresh motion to revise the regulations, the aim is to reduce the number of studs per tyre.
The proposal was sent to a round of assessment on Tuesday.
“After the amendment the number of studs per tyre could be about 15 per cent lower from the present figure”, tells Ministry of Transportation and Communications Senior Engineer Juha Valtonen, who has worked on the plans.
”Climate factors, of course, play a role in the decision. Also, traffic volumes have grown and the benefits brought on by the previous easing on the tyre issue have now been used up.”
The Finnish Road Administration (FINNRA) also sees that studded tyres still have their place on the roads of Southern Finland.
“The grip provided by studded tyres covers a significantly larger range of weather conditions than that of friction tyres”, says FINNRA planning manager Olli Penttinen.
“When using main roads that are properly salted, one does not necessarily need studded tyres. But on small side roads with pressed-down snow on the tyre tracks, the studs still come in handy.”
According to surface material expert Katri Eskola, FINNRA will take into account the use of studded tyres when considering road surfaces.
“The starting point is that safety is our first priority”, she says.
According to researcher Timo Unhola, who has studied the tyre issue for decades for example with the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT, there is no clear evidence to rank the tyre types in order of superiority.
“Studded tyres even out the driving in different weather conditions. In icy and especially wet and icy conditions the studs are safer, but on rough surfaces the friction tyres may have the edge.”
“Choosing one’s tyres is a question of attitude. I use studs. I’m about to set off for Lapland. With friction tyres I would have to be much more careful, for example, not to get surprised by ice on the road”, Unhola says.
Studded tyres have conversely come in for criticism as they greatly add to the wear on asphalt pavements, increasing the need for road maintenance.
This issue is particularly noticeable in the south, where the relative lack of snow and ice cover pits studs against asphalt more and more often.
A good part of the fine particles experienced in the air in the spring are from broken asphalt surfacing.
FINNRA: Winter Driving in Finland
Virtual Finland: Driving in Winter