Driving abroad in winter

Winter tyre and snow chain requirements in the main European resorts

In any country the driver is responsible for equipping and controlling his vehicle correctly

In any country the driver is responsible for equipping and controlling his vehicle correctly

Wherever you drive, you are responsible for equipping and controlling your vehicle correctly. You may be liable to a fine if you impede the normal flow of traffic or cause an accident as a consequence of not adapting your vehicle (tyres/snow chains) to suit weather and road conditions.

Winter conditions in many resorts will be more severe than anything encountered here. You should only consider driving in extreme winter conditions if you're confident and your vehicle suitably equipped.

The table shows winter tyre/snow chain requirements as they apply to a visitor rather than to a resident.

Some countries require residents to use winter tyres but then permit visitors to drive on 'summer' tyres – fitted with chains when conditions or local signs dictate. If you are planning to drive for a considerable distance in mainland Europe during the winter months we strongly recommend fitting winter tyres.

Tyre tread

Check all tyres for condition, pressure and tread depth. Where winter tyres are fitted a minimum tread depth of 3mm is required in most countries (the Czech Republic now requires 4mm). For other tyres, while the legal minimum is 1.6mm the AA recommends at least 3mm of tread for winter motoring, and certainly no less than 2mm.

Winter tyre and snow chain requirements

The table below shows the requirements for vehicles not exceeding 3500kg and shows only specific winter requirements.  It should be read in conjunction with the general compulsory equipment chart and the general touring tips for the country of interest.

If you've left it to the last minute, snow chains can be purchased from AA Travelshops (Dover & Eurotunnel, Folkstone). Call 01303 273576 to check they have chains in stock that are suitable for your vehicle.

 

Country Winter tyres Snow chains(5)
Andorra R C
Austria M(1) C
Finland M(3) P
France - C
Germany M(4) C
Great Britain - P
Italy R(7) C(7)
Norway R C
Sweden M(6) R
Switzerland R(2) C

Key:

P = Permitted

R = Recommended

M = Mandatory

C = Carry chains and use them as dictated by local signs or road conditions. Reduced speed limits may apply.

Notes

(1) - All vehicles driving on snow covered roads must have winter tyres (or all-season tyres marked M+S*/mud and snow) during the winter season (from 1 November to 15 April) and if roads have a covering of snow, slush or ice outside these dates. Tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 4mm.

Theoretically snow chains on summer tyres can be used as an alternative to winter tyres where the entire road is heavily covered with snow and no damage to the road is caused by the snow chains. In practice though, because road conditions and the weather cannot be predicted, use of winter tyres is effectively compulsory.

(2) - Snow tyres are not compulsory but vehicles not equipped to travel through snow and which impede traffic are liable to a fine.

(3) - From 1 December to the end of February (in practice from November to April) unless otherwise indicated by road signs. Tyres must be marked M+S* on the sidewall. Spiked/studded tyres may be used from 1 November to the first monday after Easter.

(4) - Germany introduced regulations in 2010 requiring all passenger cars and motorbikes including vehicles from foreign countries to be fitted with winter tyres or all season tyres on all axles when conditions are wintry. Winter tyres (or 'all season' tyres) should bear the mark M+S* or the snowflake symbol on the side wall.

(5) - Snow chains must be fitted on at least two drive wheels. In any country Snow chains may only be used where there's sufficient snow covering to avoid any possibility of damage to the road surface. A fine may be imposed if damage is caused.

(6) - Winter tyres, marked M+S* (with or without spikes/studs), with a tread depth of at least 3mm are compulsory from 1 December until 31 March for Swedish registered vehicles and trailers and also for foreign registered vehicles.

(7) - Between 15 October and 15 April or at other times if conditions dictate. Provinces can introduce their own legislation making the use of winter tyres and snow chains compulsory.


(8 February 2013)

 

*Check with the tyre supplier if you are in any doubt as some 'M+S' tyres sold in the UK are summer tyres.  These would not meet the requirements even though the sidewall marking, ‘M+S’, might suggest that they do.

 

 

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