By Denna Bowman
UK motorists who are planning on driving abroad for a skiing holiday must adhere to strict laws relating to their tyres, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
Responding to question posed to the Car Clinic panel in the ingear motoring supplement, Tim Shallcross, who used to train AA patrols to fix cars, offered some comprehensive advice to British drivers.
PS from Fleet, Hampshire, asked: “I am planning to drive to Austria via Germany for a skiing holiday soon. I do not have winter tyres on my car but will have snow chains with me and have experience of using these. I understand German law dictates that all drivers must have winter tyres but the cost of these for my car is prohibitive and storage of them would be inconvenient. Can you advise?”
Shallcross responded: “Both Germany and Austria require all cars and motorcycles, including those visiting from abroad, to have either winter or all-season tyres fitted onto each wheel in wintery conditions. This is a subjective term but basically means whenever there is snow, slush or ice on the road in the opinion of the local law-enforcement officers. An additional requirement for Austria is that these tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 4mm. Snow chains can be used only if the whole road is covered with snow and the chains won’t damage its surface.
“To remain road-legal in these countries during winter, a tyre must have on its sidewall the symbol of a snowflake on a mountain, which indicates it is made from winter-grade rubber. This rubber compound remains more flexible at low temperatures (below 7C) and is considered safer. All-season tyres typically contain the same compound yet have a tread pattern designed to last longer and generate less noise than winter-specific tyres, so they need not be alternated with conventional tyres in the smmer. This is a viable option but whatever the marketing spiel, always check that any such tyres have the snowflake symbol or they will not satisfy the legal requirements.
“It is risky to head to a ski resort in this part of the world driving a car fitted with summer tyres, even if the roads seem clear of ice or snow. If the weather changes and you are stopped, you are liable to a hefty on-th-spot fine. It is also likely you will be forbidden from continuing your journey until you buy winter tyres and the only practical option would then be to throw your existing ones away.”
According to Shawcross, motorists have two main options – invest in a set of all-weather tyres and leave these on the car permanently or buy winter tyres and swap them back to a standard set in the spring.
Finally, a third alternative would be to travel to Austria by other means and hire a car upon arrival which will be fitted with the correct tyres.