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Winter Tyres Obligatory on French Roads

Tuesday 28 September 2021

All vehicles in mountain areas of France must now be equipped with snow tyres or carry chains.

The new requirement arises out of the Loi Montagne II 2016, which comes into effect this year, with the twin objectives of improving road safety and reducing traffic jams caused by accidents. It will apply for the whole of the winter period each year from 1st Nov to 31st March.

All the main mountain areas in mainland France are affected by the law - the Alpes, Massif Central, Jura, Pyrénées, and Vosges.

That means nearly 50 departments France are concerned by it: Ain, Allier, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Ariège, Aude, Aveyron, Cantal, Corrèze, Côte-d'Or, Creuse, Doubs, Drôme, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Hérault, l'Isère, Jura, Loire, Haute-Loire, Lot, Lozère, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, la Nièvre, Puy-de-Dôme, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, la Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Var, Vaucluse, Haute-Vienne, Vosges, l'Yonne, and the Territoire de Belfort.

Nevertheless, it will not necessarily apply throughout every department or on every road; it is down to the local prefet alongside the councils to determine the communes and roads concerned, although in some departments that may mean 100% coverage. New road signs will be installed to indicate to drivers if they are entering and leaving a designated area, as follows:

The requirement will apply not only to local residents, but any vehicle entering one of the designated areas.

All light and commercial vehicles, motorhomes, etc will have to comply, and there are tougher requirements for heavy goods vehicles and coaches 

Vehicles must be equipped either with four winter tyres or at least two snow chains or socks carried in the vehicle. Vehicles equipped with studded tyres (pneus à clous) are exempt and all-weather (4 seasons) tyres are accepted. 

In concrete terms, winter tyres are defined in the law as those with the universal standard 'M + S' (Mud and Snow) marking. From 1st Nov 2024, the tyres must also carry the marking '3PMSF' (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake) or 'alpin'. Most tyres of M+S standard will normally carry both markings. 'Four-season' tyres must have the markings above.

Tyre industry specialists in France state that winter tyres do not wear out more quickly than summer tyres, but only provided the temperature does not exceed 7°C.

In snowy conditions, at a speed of 50km/h in a temperature of -5°C a car equipped with winter tyres gains around 30 metres braking. Conversely, there is a deterioration in braking performance of the tyres when temperatures rise.

Insurance accident claims in future will no doubt require that the vehicle was suitably booted.

The penalty for non-compliance is a fine of €135 and the possible immobilisation of your vehicle.

In many departments it will not be an entirely new requirement, for under a previous legislation the traffic authorities were entitled to put in place during snowy conditions the sign «B26 équipements spéciaux obligatoires» when studded tyres or chains became obligatory.

The measure has not received a lot of publicity so for the time being opposition to it is light. However, the lack of publicity has also meant that around half the population are unaware of the new law, according to a recent survey carried out by the tyre industry.

The survey also showed that only 15% of drivers had winter (or all year round) tyres, and even in mountain areas only 23% of drivers had tyres that were suitable.

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