Goodyear Winter Press Pack 2021 - Goodyear guide to driving in Europe
The arrival of plunging temperatures and cold weather conditions that blanket the landscape signals the arrival of the winter tire season. Optimized to perform at their best when temperatures dip below 7°C, winter tires prioritize both traction and braking performance over summer tires, and are designed to clear more water to stop aquaplaning.
Winter tires will usually be marked with one or two symbols on the sidewall. An ‘M+S’ (Mud + Snow) marking indicates that the tire is suitable for snowy and icy conditions, while ‘3PMSF’ (3-Peak Mountain Snow Flake) tires – such as the Goodyear UltraGrip winter tire family – have been purposely designed for snow and have undergone specific tests to support this symbol.
This award-winning range1 has been expanded to include the UltraGrip Performance+ SUV tire, and Goodyear has produced a helpful guide for European drivers to navigate through the increasingly complex tire regulations in each country. The most popular mountainous and winter tourist season destinations vary in their winter tire rules, and across Europe, differing country regulations mean you might not have to wait until the first snows or freezing road to fit winter tires.
If you are travelling to Europe this winter, and whether they are mandatory or recommended, it’s important to stay up to date with the differing winter tire regulations. Whether you are a local, or a tourist taking a scenic winter driving holiday in one of the picturesque mountainous regions, the failure to know where and when to fit winter tires may result in costly penalties or, more dangerously, an increased chance of an accident. Crucial elements of the relevant regulations as they stand today2 appear below but remember to always check the detailed regulations on websites of relevant authorities of the destination country in case of doubt.
Famous for its mountainous skiing regions on its eastern borders with Italy and Switzerland, driving conditions in the French Alps can become perilous. New for 2021, the French Road Safety Agency has decreed that M+S or 3PMSF-marked winter tires or snow chains will be made mandatory from 1 November to 31 March in 48 departments in mountainous regions (lists of roads and communes where the law will be enforced have been created). If snow chains are mounted on the drive axle, no winter tire markings are required. These rules change again from 1 November 2024, when only tires with the 3PMSF mark are permitted.
The fitment of 3PMSF tires is compulsory in winter – icy, snowy or slippery – conditions, but unlike France, there is no defined date period. However, M+S-marked tires that have a DOT (US Department of Transportation) 5217 date code – made before January 2018 – will be permitted until 30 September 2024. To find your tire’s DOT code, look for a 4-digit number encased in oval shape on the tire sidewall.
Snow chains are also mandatory on a few mountain roads marked by road signs. and other equipment that is required includes an emergency triangle, a first aid kit, and a set of high-visibility vests. German law also states that windscreen washers must be operational, and that your car has enough screen wash.
Winter tires are mandatory in some areas in Italy – such as the northwestern Valle d’Aosta region which is bordered by France and Switzerland, as well as the South Tyrol – and affected routes are usually marked by road signs. Tires marked with the M+S symbol with a minimum of 1.6m of tread should suffice.
If a vehicle does not have winter tires fitted on these routes, snow chains must be carried at all times. Applicable dates run from 15 November to 15 April, with a one-month extension for mounting (15 October to 15 November) and dismounting (15 April to 15 May).
European countries that require the compulsory fitment of winter tires (and the use of snow chains where appropriate) for the entire winter season, or on particular routes or in colder conditions, include Austria, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.
Recommended winter tire locations
Locations where winter tires are not obligatory but are recommended include Belgium, Iceland, Spain (obligations for snow chains or winter tires based on road signs) and Ukraine. Though not a legal requirement, drivers in Switzerland may face penalties if winter incidents occur on summer tires.
Not a mandatory legal requirement, Polish drivers are however recommended to use winter tires between 1 November to 1 April. Snow chains are only permitted on routes covered with ice and snow, and where they are compulsory, road traffic signs will signal the requirement.
Be safe not sorry
In addition to winter tires, don’t forget to adhere to other safety tips. Check your car over before you set off on a journey and inspect your tires for tread depth and pressures – grip is affected by under and over-inflated tires. Also adjust your driving style to the prevailing conditions and slow down in colder, more slippery conditions especially if your car is not fitted with winter tires. Prepare yourself, too, taking extra clothing, blankets and snacks in case you get stranded in snow.
If you are visiting Europe during the coming winter months, be sure to check with the relevant authority in each destination country, as well as the department or region of your stay, to determine the most up-to-date winter tire rules during your visit.
(1) Auto Bild Sportscars (GER) – Issue 11, November 2019
(2) As of November 2021