Laws in France require drivers to fit winter tyres or carry chains from 1 November until 31 March in certain mountainous regions of the country. However, Switzerland has different laws on the subject.
In Switzerland, there is no legal requirement to fit winter tyres. However, the Swiss Road Traffic Act (Art. 29) requires all vehicles on Swiss roads to be roadworthy, something for which drivers are responsible. Essentially, if you have an accident and the wrong tyres made your car unroadworthy then you could be held responsible for the accident.
Switzerland has long considered introducing rules on winter tyres. The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention (BFU) would like to see winter tyres made compulsory and would like to see a law put in place to make this a reality.
Currently, Swiss law only intervenes when those driving without winter tyres in conditions requiring them have an accident. “We would prefer to be involved in advance and engage in true prevention”, Nicolas Kessler from BFU told RTS.
Others, like the drivers’ association TCS would prefer to focus on educating drivers rather than introducing a legal requirement.
After years of trying there is no legal requirement to fit winter tyres in Switzerland. Three attempts have been made since 2012. However, the Federal Council is not convinced there is a need to change the law. Out of the roughly 55,000 accidents a year only around 50 occur on snowy roads.
But as some experts point out, the advantage of winter tyres goes far beyond better traction in snow. From 7 degrees or below, winter tyres perform considerably better on road adhesion and braking distance.
In addition, winter tyres are now required in France. The French rules apply in 48 départements including the parts of France bordering on Switzerland – see map here. So if you’re venturing into France be aware that you currently need to have winter tyres or chains to hand.
Parts of Italy have similar rules to France. For example in the Aosta Valley region, winter tyres or chains are required from 15 October until 15 April. Information on the rest of Italy can be found here.
It is also important to note that tyre treads should be a minimum of 1.6 mm deep, both summer and winter tyres. Any tyre that fails this requirement can trigger a fine of CHF 100 each. They also deem your vehicle unroadworthy.