NEW France Winter law- tyres, snow chains and essential info

On 01 November 2021, a new law came into effect in France, stating a legal requirement to either have winter tyres fitted or to carry/ wear snow chains where directed.

This has been causing uproar in some Facebook groups and forums, so let's discuss. Don't forget, if you are planning a trip to France, whether in winter or summer, grab your FREE France road trip checklist below.

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The new France winter compulsory equipment law (often call the France tyre law)

From 01 November 2021, 48 departments located in or near the French mountains (Alps, Corsica, Massif Central, Massif Jurassien, Pyrenees, Massif Vosges) now have roads/ regions where you need to have winter tyres fitted or carry snow chains/ socks before driving on one of the regulated roads, regardless of weather conditions.

What is the point of the new law?

The French want to “reduce road congestion in mountainous areas and improve road safety” when driving on snowy or icy roads.

Each year, unequipped vehicles block roads and cause accidents and they want to reduce those.

Before 01 November 2021, you only needed winter tyres/ chains when roads marked « B26 mandatory special equipment » were actually covered with snow. Now, you'll need tyres fitted or to carry chains if you're planning to drive down an affected road, regardless of current weather conditions.


Where are the affected areas?

The affected departments are (currently):

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 Territoire de Belfort.

However, it's doesn't necessarily mean every road in every department is covered- the local council and prefecture determine which roads and areas are affected. This map is taken from the France Government website.


How do you know which roads are affected?

New signs will tell you when you're about to enter a compulsory equipment area. Again, it's only compulsory between 01 November and 31 March each year- you can ignore the signs at other times.

One sign shows you where the compulsory area starts, and one where it finishes:

signs to show new winter compulsory equipment area in France
signs to show new winter compulsory equipment area in France

What do you need to comply?

If motorhoming in France or driving in one of the affected regions between 01 November and 31 March each year, AND if you're on a road which is marked as mandatory, you must:

  • have winter tyres (marked with “3PMSF” (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake), the “alpine symbol” marking and either “ MS ”or“ M&S ”) mounted on at least two steered wheels and at least two driving wheels. If the vehicle has multiple steered axles, these are the steered wheels of the main steering system.
  • 4-season/ all season tyres don't count unless they are stamped “3PMSF”, or at least “M + S”

Until November 1, 2024, tyres only marked “M + S” will be tolerated.

OR

  • carry snow chains or socks for at least two driving wheels

OR

  • have stud tyres

If you are a heavy vehicle or have a trailer

Heavy vehicles without trailers (I would suggest a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes counts as a heavy vehicle) can choose between chains or winter tyres.

Heavy goods vehicles with trailers will be required to carry snow chains for at least two driving wheels, even if they are equipped with winter tyres.

RELATED POST: How to plan a winter motorhome trip & live in a van during winter


Do snow socks count?

Snow socks are undeniably cheaper, easier to fit and use, not to mention better for your motorhome payload! And yes, they are allowed under the law.

However, they aren't as robust as chains and are designed for short trips, not lots of travel in snow, so if you're planning to do a long trip or several short ones, get chains.

Whatever you choose, make sure you practice fitting them in advance- we accidentally order the wrong size chains and didn't realise until we were in the mountains. Luckily, it was all fine but could have been a big mistake.

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Does the law apply to motorcycles?

The law only applies to 4 wheeled vehicles, so it seems motorcycles are exempt (but, honestly, do you want to ride a motorcycle in snowy conditions without proper tyres??!)

Is it law to have winter tyres in France?

In a word, no. If you carry chains or snow socks, you're covered in terms of the law. But, honestly, if you're planning to take a motorhome skiing or into mountainous areas during winter, get winter or at the very least all-season tyres fitted and carry chains or socks in addition.

Better safe than sorry!

What if I am not equipped properly?

If you are wintering down in Spain or ‘popping through the Alps' and drive through an area where winter tyres or snow chains are mandatory without complying with the above, you may be stopped by the authorities and fined €135. You may also not be able to continue your journey.

B26 traffic sign

The B26 traffic sign (the one showing snow chains) will continue to mean that you must WEAR (not just carry) chains on those roads when snow is on the ground, even outside the winter period. These are clearly marked on the roads and there will be an area of chainage for you to pull in and fit chains if needed.

NOTE: The French Government clearly say here that there will be no fines for breaching this law in the first year (so up until March 2022). I have no clue why, but there it is!


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