One of our most frequently asked questions relates
to the use of winter tyres when driving abroad. More
and more countries are now making winter tyres compulsory. Every
country has different rules, laws and regulations, so click the country links on
the right to find out all you need to know about winter driving and other motoring
laws. This page gives an overview of winter driving requirements in Europe.
In order to increase the amount of grip when the
roads are icy or snow-covered winter tyres or snow chains are fitted. This is common
practice in many European countries where snow and ice is either long-lasting, or
where altitude means heavy falls of snow are common-place.
A road is always less predictable in winter than
in hot weather; whether it's snowy, icy or just wet, the surface always gives less
grip than in summer.
Because of the specific form of a winter tyre, which is designed to displace the
water passing under the tyre, a winter tyre reduces the risk of aquaplaning, as
well as improving grip in more extreme conditions. A winter tyre gives much better
adherence and excellent traction, because it has a deeper tread than a summer tyre.
A winter tyre is made of special silica rubber compounds, which are better adapted
to the cold and enable better braking.
A winter tyre is not the same as a studded tyre,
which is designed for more extreme driving. Winter tyres can be recognised by the
snowflake on the sidewall, or one of the following combimation of letters: M+S,
M/S, M&S. In most of Europe away from the southern countries many drivers now
use winter tyres throughout the cold weather, fitting them at the end of October
and keeping them on the car until April. Modern winter tyres give better grip in
all weather when the temperature is below about 7 degrees.
Snow chains are intended as a temporary measure to
ensure the vehicle continues to progress when roads are covered with snow or ice.
They are not mandatory on a country-wide basis, but you must carry and fit chains
when conditions demand. The police can stop you and forbid you from travelling further
if you do not have chains and fit them when required. Many countries have road signs
indicating roadside bays where you should stop and fit snow chains. If snowchains
are fitted you should travel at no more than 30 mph and should remove them as soon
as possible to avoid damaging the road service. Snow chains should always be fitted
to the driving wheels, and to the front wheels of 4x4s.
However, many countries have excellent facilities
for clearing snow and ice from roads, so even when travelling to high Alpine resorts
it is only at times of heavy snowfall that you are likely to need to stop and fit
your chains. Apart from the issue of legality, it would be foolish to venture into
the mountains in winter without a set of chains.
If you are likely to cover much distance on treacherous
roads, even in the UK, but feel that a complete set of winter tyres is too high
an expense, you might consider a reputable brand of retreaded winter tyre.
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All information on this page is provided as a service
to our clients. It is intended as a guide to the more important rules for the different
countries to which we offer driving holidays. It is not meant to be a comprehensive
document. We try and keep the information on this page up-to-date, but we cannot
be held responsible in any way for any consequences arising from any inaccuracies.
If you find a mistake or would like to send us some additional information, please
email us. Your co-operation is appreciated.