Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?

Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?
People chaining up their cars on their way up to the French Alps. Photo: AFP
Winter is coming, which means it's time to dig out your studded tyres and chains. Here's a look at the rules for different tyres in France.

France's road rules are outlined in the government's road safety agency, Sécurité routière.

Here's a look at what the rules say about winter equipment for your car.

Winter tyres (pneus contact/pneus neige).

Except in special, indicated cases, winter tyres are not required in France.

This is contrary to many other European countries where the use of winter tyres is mandated by law. The rules are however about to change in France, and as of November 2021 local authorities in 48 départments will be able to make lists of towns and cities in their areas where winter tyres become compulsory.

Between then and now, if you are driving to a European neighbour during winter time, you should check what the rules are in that respective country. The European Consumer Centre France has a handy map outlining the different rules in Europe. 

Studded tyres (pneus cloutés/pneus à crampons)

These are tyres adapted to drive on icy roads.

As a general rule, you may use studded tyres from November 11th until the last Sunday of March the following year (March 29th 2020). Regional governments may adapt this date to local weather conditions, but they are not compulsory. 

Chains (chaînes)

They are allowed on all roads covered in snow, whatever the season. Roads marked with B26 signs require the use of chains on at least two of your car’s wheels. There are exceptions when regular winter tyres are allowed on B26 roads, but in those cases the signs will explicitly indicate it. If it's not indicated, you're better off sticking to chains.

You can find out more about the winter rules here.

French vocab

Tomber en panne – break down

Route barré – road closed

Déviation – diversion

Antigel – antifreeze

Route glacée – icy roads

Antipatinage – Traction control

Liquide de lave-glace spécialement adapté aux conditions hivernales – Windshield washer fluid adapted for winter conditions


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