A one-year grace period granted to mandatory winter tires in France


Snow tires will be compulsory for vehicles in several mountain municipalities in France from November 1, but the government has clarified that drivers found without them will not be penalized this year.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin declared: “Future breaches of the obligation to keep snow chains in their boots or to fit winter tires in the departments concerned will not be penalized this winter.

“Education and information campaigns will take place alongside the introduction of this rule in the coming weeks. “

The normal fine for the first rule violation will be € 135, and you may not be allowed to continue your trip if you are stopped by the authorities.

However, this year will be a “grace period,” the minister said.

Studies suggest that the majority of French people still ignore the rule.

65% of drivers had never heard of it, polled in an Opinionway poll for tire specialist Point-S in late September. Even more people (86%) said the measure would be “too expensive”.

Still, 30% said they would make sure they were ready for the rule by winter.

What’s the new rule?

The new rule, dubbed the “mountain law”, will require vehicles – including motorhomes – driving in affected mountain communities to either:

  • Keep snow chains or textile tire “socks” in their boots that are ready to be fitted at any time
  • Be equipped with four winter tires.

Chains or socks should be suitable for at least two ‘drive’ wheels (such as the rear wheels of a rear-wheel drive vehicle), and the driver should be able to fit them if and when necessary.

If used, winter tires must be fitted to all four wheels and must be marked with either “M + S”, “MS” or “M&S”, and / or the “snowy mountain” logo to be valid.

Photo: YegoeVdo22 / Shutterstock

Signs in the affected areas will display the symbol of a mountain with a suitcase of chains and a tire, to indicate where the rule applies.

Currently, snow tires or chains are only required on roads with B26 signs indicating “special equipment required” (“special equipment required”) in snowy weather.

Read more: Winter tires mandatory in France: the key elements to watch out for

Which vehicles does the rule apply to?

All normal cars, small vans and motorhomes; as well as coaches, buses and heavy goods vehicles without trailers or semi-trailers.

Heavy goods vehicles with trailers or semi-trailers must be fitted with snow chains for at least two driving wheels, even if they are also fitted with winter tires.

It does not apply to vehicles fitted with studded tires.

Does the rule apply to foreign cars or to passing cars traveling in France or through France, such as cars registered in the UK?

Yes. Tire and automotive expert Michelin UK says drivers should “always check local laws and regulations before traveling”.

On a page intended for British drivers, it specifies that “a prefecture can take an order requiring specific winter equipment (winter tires or snow chains) between November 1 and March 31” in France.

This suggests that he recommends that all cars, even those registered in the UK, comply with the law when in France.

When does the new rule apply?

In the affected municipalities from November 1 to March 31 of each year, from November 2021.

What areas or municipalities are concerned?

Local authorities in 48 departments have had the choice of consulting local councils on the advisability of applying the rule in their areas and, if so, which municipalities.

The full list of the 48 departments that were given the opportunity to impose the rule were as follows:

  • Ain
  • Combine
  • Alpes de Haute Provence
  • High mountains
  • Alpes-Maritimes
  • Ardeche
  • Ariège
  • Aude
  • Aveyron
  • Cantal
  • Golden Coast
  • Dig
  • Doubs
  • Drome
  • Eure-et-Loir
  • Gard
  • Upper Garonne
  • Herault
  • Isere
  • Swear
  • Loire
  • Haute-Loire
  • Parcel
  • Lozere
  • Meurthe-et-Moselle
  • Moselle
  • Nièvre
  • Puy de Dome
  • Pyrénées-Atlantiques
  • Hautes-Pyrenees
  • Eastern Pyrenees
  • Bas-Rhin
  • Haut-Rhin
  • Rhône
  • Haute-Saone
  • Saone-et-Loire
  • Savoy
  • Haute-Savoie
  • Tarn
  • Tarn-et-Garonne
  • Var
  • Vaucluse
  • Haute-Vienne
  • Vosges
  • Yonne
  • The Territory of Belfort
  • South Corsica
  • Upper Corsica

Five announced they would apply the rule to the entire department. They are: Cantal, Haute-Loire, Haute-Savoie, Puy-de-Dôme, Savoie

The following people have announced that they will not apply the rule in any of their municipalities: Nièvre, Corrèze, Côte-d’Or, Creuse, Haute-Vienne, Lot, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Saône-et-Loire and Tarn – et-Garonne.

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