Winter driving in Finland

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If you drive in Finland, do you know how the winter affects your driving? In this blog, we’ll give you a few tips about winter driving in Finland. 

Do you have the right kind of tires?

Winter driving in Finland means that you have to have a second set of tires for the winter. The current traffic law in Finland no longer specifies exact times for when cars in Finland should have winter tires on. The current law states that winter tires have to be used between November and March when the weather so demands. Studded tires can be used during that time. The current law thus gives drives more discretion concerning when to put on winter tires and when to take them off. Previously winter tire usage was tied to specific calendar dates. Now it’s tied to the weather.

There are two types of winter tires used in Finland. One type is the studded winter tires and the other is studless winter tires. The safest choice for the Finnish winter is to go with the studded tires. This is particularly true if you are not an expert in winter driving, or if you have an older car. 

Winter tires have the markings MS, M&S, or M+S (Mud and Snow). If they additionally have the marking 3PMSF (3PeakMountainSnowFlake) on them, they are specifically designed for demanding winter conditions. Starting from December 1, 2024 winter tires need to have this “mountain symbol” or they need to be studded to the lawful. The safest is to have studded winter tires or at least tires with the said “mountain symbol”. Winter tires designed for Central European conditions are not necessarily safe enough in Finland as they are designed to maximize speed on dry asphalt. In designing winter tires for the Nordic winter, engineers have instead focused on the grip of the tires in snow and on ice.

Thinking about buying a car in Finland? In our “Four Wheels in Finland” online course we tell you what to expect when buying, owning, and driving a car in Finland.

Are your tires good enough for the road?

Make sure that you check the tread depth of your tires regularly. In the winter, the tire thread patterns should be deeper than 5 mm to keep you on the safe side although the legal minimum depth is only 3 mm. 

Checking the tread depth is easy to do with a two-euro coin because the width of the silvery circle of the coin is just about 4 mm. If the silvery outer circle of the coin shows when you put the coin into the main groove of the tire, you should consider getting a new set of tires. 

Checking tire thread depth with a two-euro coin

Winter means lower speeds

Winter driving in Finland means driving at lower speeds. From around mid-October onwards, officials will start reducing speed limits on main roads around the country. In most of the country, winter speed limits have been installed by the end of this week. 

In areas where the speed limit is 100 km/h during the summer, it might now be 80 km/h. On the highway where speed limits can be controlled remotely, 120 km/h limit may still be in effect until the end of November, but this depends on weather conditions. The standard rule is that the speed limit on highways drops to 100 km/h. So pay extra attention to the speed limits. Summer speed limits will return in March or April. 

Black ice

Now that temperatures are plunging below or near freezing, you might run into black ice. Black ice is a thin translucent layer of ice that forms on road surfaces in certain conditions. It’s called black ice because one can see the asphalt through it.

Black ice is particularly dangerous since it’s very difficult to spot. It is also extremely slippery. One can expect black ice to form when temperatures hover around freezing. Be prepared for black ice when:

  • there is a dip in the road; 
  • going over bridges; 
  • transitioning from open areas into shaded areas; and 
  • traveling on a road that is next to a body of water.

If you need to overtake someone, note that although your lane may be dry, the other lane might have ice on it. Avoid sudden steering movements and brake carefully.   

Black ice is equally dangerous for pedestrians as well. So look out for it on the sidewalks this time of year. 

Another particular danger for this time of year

In May of 2019, we wrote a blog about the danger young elks present to drivers in early summer.  This is the other time of the year one must pay extra attention to these animals. 

In late fall, elks travel from summer pastures to their winter pastures. Also, the ongoing hunting season makes elks travel around. 

As we noted in that blog, the highest risk for elk collisions is during the hours right before sunrise and just after sunset. Always pay attention to traffic signs warning about elk. 

To avoid accidents

  • Reduce speed in areas with a high risk of elk collisions. The risk of injury from an elk collision increases sharply at higher speeds.
  • Use long-range headlights whenever possible.
  • Keep your eyes on the sides of the road, particularly in locations where there are wooded areas or thickets close to the road.
  • If you see an elk by the side of the road, flash your headlights to warn oncoming traffic.
  • When you see an oncoming car flashing its headlights, they might be warning you about elk. Pay close attention to the roadsides
  • If an animal runs on the road, try to drive behind it.

Four Wheels in Finland

You can learn more about buying, owning, and driving a car in Finland by taking our tutorial Four Wheels in Finland

In it, we take you through the formalities of buying and owning a car. We also tell you how you can obtain a Finnish driver’s license. We talk about parking and ticketing in Finland and much more.  

Get our “Four Wheels in Finland” online course now from our online store.

Edited for content October 22, 2020.

The mission of Finnwards is to help internationals thrive in their life abroad. We provide coaching, consulting, and training services that help them do just that. Check out our Services for Businesses and Organizations or our Expat Inspiration Catalog for more information! While we serve internationals and their employers all over the world, our specialty is Finland. With our help, internationals can build a uniquely Finnish life for themselves and their family. In addition to the coaching, consulting and training services, we also offer a wide selection of self-guided online courses about Finland. Contact us and let us help you or your employees succeed in their professional and private lives abroad and in Finland.

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