General speed limits in Finland are:
- Urban areas 50 km/h
- Outside of urban areas 80km/h
These limits apply unless otherwise stated: weather conditions can affect them.
Finland is a big country with an extensive road network. Driving can be fun if you like the challenge of changing conditions and gravel roads. Most of the roads are small single lane (each way) paved roads combined with gravel roads. Closer to the cities, you can find double lane highways. Roads are generally kept in decent conditions and people drive on the right-hand side.
During the summer, conditions are generally good. Keep in mind that sometimes the roads do get slippery due to heavy rain. Also, wild animals tend to move close to roads during dusk and dawn.
Autumn sets a bit of a challenge as the amount of daylight decreases. Wet and windy weather also makes roads slippery. This is also the time for big wild animals, such as moose, to be found on the roads. They can be hard to spot so make sure you drive cautiously.
Winter is not really more of a challenge than Autumn. Yes, the snow falls every year but counties have really good snow removing capacity to keep roads open even during heavy snowfall.
The winter conditions last a few months in the south and about half the year in the north. When possible, a few public ice roads will be opened. The public ice roads are monitored constantly and are safe to use.
Winter tyres are tyres with small metal studs attached to the surface or special friction tyres. The depth of the tread must be no less than 3mm.
By law, every car in Finland has to have these from the 1st of December until the end of February. Depending on conditions, you may have to have them on from the 1st of November until just after Easter. Police actively monitor that people are following the law and you might be fined if you forget to install the correct tyres on time.
According to the Official Statistics of Finland, the number of traffic accidents is slowly decreasing. In 2017 there were 161 deaths due to traffic accidents in Finland.
But humans are not the only problem in Finland, elk, deer and reindeer are the cause of a lot of accidents. More than 1,800 elk collisions happen every year. Keep your eyes open when driving at dusk or dawn, as nearly two-thirds of the accidents happen during this period. Hundreds of kilometres of road are protected by fences blocking the Elks' access to the road, yet this does not guarantee your safety!
Reindeer are a different story as they are only in the north. Collisions with them usually do not kill people, as they are not as big as an elk, but they can still cause a lot of damage and harm. Reindeer are known to be the cause of a different and rather annoying problem; blocking roads as they move in herds.
Rules and regulations
Finland has some specific road safety rules:
- Headlights are compulsory at all times! But headlights must not be used in such a way that would blind other drivers. Fog lights may be used only in fog, mist or in heavy rain or snow. If an oncoming vehicle flashes its high beams at you, this may mean one of a few things: there is a moose or an accident ahead, or you do not have your headlights on
- Drink-driving is a criminal offence, a driver is guilty of drink-driving if he or she has a blood alcohol level of at least 0.5% (or a breath alcohol level of 0.22 mg/litre)
- In Finland, it is compulsory to use winter tyres from December through to the end of February
- The Finnish drive on the right and overtake on the left. The only exception is tramlines, as these are usually in the middle of the carriageway. Trams are normally overtaken on the right. A tram may, however, be overtaken on the left if the position of the rails requires this
- You must carry a warning triangle and a first aid kit in your vehicle
- Only hands-free telephones may be used when driving
- The general speed limit in urban areas is 50km/h and outside of urban areas 80km/h. Often you see 100km/h limit on main roads and highways have 120 km/h limit while populated areas can go down to 40km/h or 30km/h. Please keep in mind that these limits are only limits. Pay attention to conditions and lower your speed if needed
If you have seen an accident, or if you are involved in one, here is what you have to do.
First, you have the obligation to help anyone involved in a traffic accident and to transport any casualties to a place where they can receive treatment. You can also help with arranging transport, whenever this is necessary. If the vehicles involved are blocking the carriageway, other traffic should be warned. Make sure the area is safe first!
After securing the area, call the nationwide emergency number, 112. This includes police, the ambulance service and the fire brigade.
You are obliged to call the emergency number if:
- a serious personal injury has occurred
- traffic control equipment has been damaged
- an accident has occurred involving an elk or a reindeer (or perhaps another big animal)
- the property of a third party, such as a parked vehicle, has been damaged and the owner cannot be reached
After this, make sure that you do not touch anything. Vehicles may not be moved, but people and valuable property may nevertheless be protected from harm. The engines of vehicles involved may be switched off for safety measurements. Do not forget to place a reflective warning triangle! During the night you can leave the warning lights on in order to warn others.