Winter road maintenance is not part of the road construction obligation. There is no obligation under road law to provide general winter maintenance services on roads or certain classes of roads. The duty to ensure road safety, which is rooted in civil law, can result in winter maintenance obligations for the road authority in individual cases, especially in local thoroughfares, but these are severely restricted in terms of space or subject matter depending on the situation on site. On the open road, in the event of icy roads and snow, the obligation to spread grit only applies to particularly dangerous road sections (roadway sections). Apart from this, winter road maintenance is a voluntary service provided by the road authority.
Winter road maintenance outside built-up areas
The federal and state governments have decided to establish a voluntary 24-hour winter road clearance service on federal highways in order to ensure continuous trafficability wherever possible. However, road users have no legal entitlement to the latter.
On other roads in state administration (federal, state and administered district roads), voluntary winter road maintenance is also carried out outside towns only during the day; depending on the importance of the road for interurban, commuter or regular bus traffic, it is kept passable from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. respectively. During the night, (unrestricted) trafficability is not guaranteed.
In general, during heavy, long-lasting snowfalls, snow-covered roadways must be accepted at times. Even on highways, trafficability is then only possible to a limited extent. Critical road conditions are also to be expected in the event of heavy snow drifts and freezing rain.
Public winter services and private precautions must therefore complement each other. Private precautions in winter include in particular
- timely fitting of vehicles with winter tires (§ 2 of the German Road Traffic Act)
- driving behavior adapted to winter road conditions.
Winter road maintenance within built-up areas
According to the Bavarian Road and Street Act, it is the responsibility of the municipality to clear the public roads of snow and to grit all dangerous roadways, crosswalks and sidewalks in case of icy conditions in order to maintain public safety and order within the enclosed local area according to its capacity, if this is urgently required and others are not obligated to do so due to other legal regulations (in particular the obligation to ensure traffic safety).
The municipalities also have the option of issuing legal ordinances obliging the abutting owners or rear residents to clear and grit the sidewalks and the shared sidewalks and bike paths of the public roads adjoining their property or accessing their property or, if there is no sidewalk or shared sidewalk and bike path, to maintain these public roads in safe condition in the width required for pedestrian traffic.