Reader question: My department is not affected by the new laws requiring winter tyres, but some nearby areas, which I might want to drive through, are. Can I get all-season tyres instead?
Yes, all-season tyres are (at least for now) an acceptable alternative to fitting purpose-made ‘winter’ tyres in those areas that are subject to the Loi Montagne II, the ‘new’ law that you are referring to.
This law relates to the period from November 1 to March 31 and requires drivers in some of France’s mountainous regions to ensure their vehicles are adapted to winter conditions, either with ‘winter tyres’ or with alternative systems to improve grip.
For the time being, ‘all-season’ tyres can qualify as ‘winter’ ones for these purposes.
Although only 34 of the 48 departments covered by the law have opted to enforce the measure, it will still affect a significant number of people, and not only residents.
The rules will be applied to cars registered in France or abroad, so even if you are only visiting, you will need to comply to avoid a €135 fine.
If you do not live in a mountainous area yourself, it might feel unnecessary to equip your car with winter tyres just for a couple of short trips.
As this is only the second year the measure has been in place (and the first in which fines are actually liable to be levied), drivers may still be unsure of how to comply.
Fortunately, the law provides several options.
The first option is to fit your car with four specialised winter tyres, which will bear the ‘3PMSF’ (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake) logo – see below – and will also come labelled as ‘M+S (or sometimes M.S or M&S), which stands for Mud+Snow.
These purpose-made winter tyres are specifically designed for use in severe snow, and provide optimal protection against treacherous conditions.
Credit: YegoeVdo22 / Shutterstock
3PMSF tyres must pass a standardised acceleration test on a snow-covered road and have at least 25% better traction than a standard reference tyre.
Certain manufacturers and sellers, such as Michelin, have created a specific logo labelled ‘Loi Montagne – Certifié 3PMSF’ to remove any doubt about eligibility under the law. 3PMSF specialised winter tyres are designed to stay soft and pliable in temperatures below 7C, but if used during summer, the softer tread will mean they wear out more quickly, so it is best to switch in the spring.
These are specifically designed to be suitable for all-year-round use.
They are usually a little more costly than ordinary tyres, but will provide better grip in wintry conditions than ordinary ones. Some of these pneus 4 saisons do also carry the 3PMSF logo but many have only the M+S rating.
All-season tyres are suitable for use in the winter, but they are not specifically designed for severe snowy or icy terrain, and are therefore not ideal for driving through mountainous areas.
The M+S rating represents a declaration from the manufacturer that the tyre operates better in snowy or muddy conditions than regular tyres.
The rating refers to the tread design, with M+S tyres having deeper ridges than conventional tyres, though they are not required to pass any specific, standardised performance tests to obtain this.
For the time being, the mountain law nonetheless allows tyres with either M+S or 3PMSF to qualify as acceptable pneus d’hiver under the law, thus including ‘all-season’ tyres.
From November 1, 2024, the law will require tyres with both the M+S and 3PMSF symbols
If you would rather not invest in winter tyres, you can also carry chains or snow socks, for at least two drive wheels, in the boot.
Socks are easier to apply, but are less effective and do not last as long as chains.
The Loi Montagne applies to most vehicles apart from motorcycles, licence-free cars, and cars with studded tyres.
It is up to the departments to decide which communes the obligation will apply to.
A map and list of communes is available at tinyurl.com/wintyres.