Finland's new Road Traffic Act went into effect at the beginning of June, and with it a slew of new rules and regulations. One of the Act's new laws made it possible to ban the use of studded winter tyres.
For decades vehicle owners have been compelled by law to use studded ones during the months of December - February, but the old law did not take into account possible variations in regional weather conditions.
Weather conditions can be very different in the south of the country compared to up north in Lapland, and the new law amendment was intended to take changing road conditions into consideration, according to Elina Immonen, the Director of Safety and Security Unit at the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Studded tyres often cause excessive dust - as well as noise on roads that are free of ice and snow. Immonen said that the new law's model was taken from a similar one in Sweden.
The new Act also introduced new and updated road signs, including one that illustrates the prohibition of the use of studded tyres.
"The purpose of the traffic sign was to make it possible to ban the use of the tyres on limited sections of roads, in urban areas, for reasons like reducing road dust, for example. Road maintenance officials asses on a case-by-case basis where [such bans] are needed," Immonen said.
Helsinki aims to take advantage of new law
The City of Helsinki has launched a study on which areas of the capital city would be best suited for a ban on studded tyres, according to Heikki Hälvä, the city's traffic and street planning unit chief. The city has also called for residents to suggest roadways that would benefit from a ban on studded tyres.
With our current climate situation as it is, one doesn't know what kind of weather winters will bring. And it is possible to drive on all-season tyres for a long time rather than using studded ones," he said.
Hälvä was not yet prepared to reveal possible areas that are being considered as suitable for such a ban.
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But, he did say that some roads are more likely candidates than others, including ones near schools or residential areas as well as places where a significant number of people live which are particularly exposed to the noise and dust caused by studded tyres.
Hälvä said the study is expected to be wrapped up this autumn and the results will be used by city decision makers towards the end of the year, noting that an initial rollout of a stud ban on some stretches of road would be on a trial basis.
However, Hälvä acknowledged that surveillance of the types of tyres in use in areas with stud bans could be challenging, due to limited resources of the police, but he said that he trusted residents would heed traffic signs and laws.
Following the implementation of the Road Traffic Act, drivers should be using studded tyres from the beginning November until the end of March - depending on local weather conditions, Hälvä explained.
"The period [of winter tyre use] is a bit longer now, but it hinges on whether road conditions require winter tyres. There's more consideration given to current weather conditions," he said.