If you’re driving in Europe this winter you need to be prepared for road conditions more severe than anything you would normally encounter at home here in Ireland.
Driving in Germany
If you’re heading to Germany know that the rules in Germany changed at the end of 2010 – regulations now require 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 wintery.
If your vehicle becomes stuck during the winter months because the tyres are unsuitable you will be liable to an on the spot fine in Germany. If the vehicle causes an obstruction and aggravation to other traffic, the fine may be doubled. You may also be prevented from continuing your journey.
Driving in France
If you’re off to France there is a number of compulsory equipment that should be in your vehicle.
Each motorist should carry a warning triangle so as to alert other road users if you are stopped roadside for any reason.
Parts of France experience heavy snowfall during the winter months, so it should come as no surprise that snow chains are compulsory here. The chains must be fitted to vehicles using snow-covered roads in compliance with the relevant road sign. The maximum speed limit is 31 mph (50km/h).
Reflective jackets are also a must. At least one should be kept within the passenger compartment of the vehicle, and be worn before exiting the vehicle in an emergency/breakdown situation.
Do I need to use winter tyres in Europe?
If you are driving for a considerable distance in mainland Europe during the winter months we would recommend fitting winter tyres before travelling – irrespective of what the minimum legal requirement may be.
Winter tyres give significantly improved handling and reduce stopping distances when the weather is cold (below 7C) and wet as well as when roads are covered in snow and ice. You will likely have to spend more time driving in wintery conditions on a trip abroad at this time of year than you would do so at home.
And don’t forget – you are likely to encounter more severe conditions than at home. The roads are likely to prove more challenging.
Do I need to use snow chains in Europe?
Check local rules with your travel company or holiday rep before you go. Check with your insurer too as they may have specific requirements for winter resorts.
Practice fitting snow chains before you go as they may be easier to fit when your hands are cold and the wheel arches filled with snow if you’ve practiced first in the warm/dry at home.
If you are hiring a car, check with the hire company what tyres are fitted as they may not be suitable for the journey you’re planning.