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Motorists in the dark about winter tyre laws when driving abroad


At this time of year, many motorists are thinking about driving abroad for Christmas or for the start of the ski season.But the vast majority don’t know if they will be legally required to fit winter tyres or not.

That was the key finding of a YouGov survey of more than 1,400 car owners commissioned by The Motor Ombudsman. It revealed that 87% of drivers are unaware which Continental European countries require winter tyres to be fitted.

Winter tyres are not a legal requirement in Britain, but they are in several countries – including in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the laws vary with regard to the time of year they are compulsory, and whether they are mandatory for driving in wintry conditions only.

The survey found that only 13% of people knew they would need to change their tyres to be legally compliant at their destination.And just only 28% knew that winter tyres are most effective in temperatures of less than seven degrees.

Encouragingly however, around 60% were familiar with the benefits of winter tyres, and a similar proportion were able to identify how they differ from summer tyres.

Of those who were able to state how the tyres differ, 89% knew that grip level is improved in colder weather; 55% knew that that braking distances are shorter in colder temperatures; and 34% knew that a winter tyre features different sidewall symbols (a three-peak mountain insignia and the letters “M+S”) than summer tyres.

“The research paints an interesting and contrasting picture,” Bill Fennell, Chief Ombudsman and MD of The Motor Ombudsman, said. “On one hand, motorists are knowledgeable about the merits that winter tyres offer in more challenging conditions but, on the other, there is significantly less understanding of what the laws are when heading abroad.This reinforces the need for car owners, before they set off on a journey this winter, to spend time doing research and to make sure they are prepared.”