Czech Republic to get unique road sign

A new law proposed by the Czech transport Minister Aleš Řebíček will see Czech drivers encountering an entirely original road sign. The white-on-blue sign, which features a large snowflake beneath a picture of a car is set to warn drivers that they can only proceed on a particular road on condition that they have so-called winter-tires fitted to their cars. Drivers who have summer-tires fitted will be obliged to find an alternative route.

The proposal underscores recent government initiatives to increase road-safety in a country blighted by high rates of traffic accidents and fatalities, and in which government ministers are themselves often caught speeding. According to official preliminary figures, the Czech Republic had around 1111 road fatalities in 2007, an increase on 2006 figures - this, despite the recent introduction of a penalty points system for Czech drivers.

Although most accidents occur in the summer months and most Czech drivers are used to switching tires in the winter, the Transport Ministry remains adamant that this proposal will continue to improve Czech road safety. According to the ministry, the law will also finally settle a debate as to whether winter tires should be mandated on Czech roads, as they are in neighbouring Austria, for example. Local authorities as well as the police will be able to independently determine which roads will require the new sign based on ever-changing conditions on the ground.

Winter tires differ from summer ones in that they have a softer tread, as well as increased studding which provides a greater grip on icy roads.

However, concerns have been raised that Czech and in particular international drivers may struggle to understand the new sign, particularly as it will be exclusive to the Czech Republic. Despite this, a recent poll by the news website revealed that more than 82% of respondents were in favour of mandating the use of winter tyres. At present, the proposed law only requires the signature of the Transport Minister to come into effect, and is set to appear on roads from March onwards. This means that it won’t be fully tested until the next winter, after which time it will be on display from the 1st November until 30th April.