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DRIVING

Snow tires compulsory for drivers in 48 areas of France this winter

From the beginning of November, drivers in around half of France will face fines if their vehicles are not equipped with snow tires or chains under a new road safety law.

Snow tires compulsory for drivers in 48 areas of France this winter
Snow tires will be compulsory this winter. Photo: Jean Francois Monier/AFP

The Loi Montage II (mountain law II) was signed into effect in 2020 and means that from November 1st 2021, drivers in 48 of mainland France’s 96 départements will be required to have snow tires or chains fitted to their vehicles.

The law is aimed at the mountainous areas of France – the Alps, Pyrenees, Vosges, Jura and Massif Central – but covers whole départements.

READ ALSO The rules for driving in France that you need to know about

The 48 départements covered by the law are; 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, Isère, Jura, Loire, Haute-Loire, Lot, Lozère, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, Nièvre, Puy-de-Dôme, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Var, Vaucluse, Haute-Vienne, Vosges, Yonne, Territoire de Belfort and the whole of the island of Corsica.

Within the départements covered by the new law, local committees have created lists of roads and communes where it will be enforced, so for full details check your local préfecture.

You can also find a map HERE, showing each area covered in more detail.

Through journeys are also affected, so if for example you are travelling from Calais to Marseille you would need the snow tires for the part of your journey through the Massif Central.

READ ALSO Driving in France: What are the offences that earn you penalty points?

The law runs from November 1st to March 31st and applies to all private cars and vans, commercial vehicles and motorhomes, as well as buses and HGVs. Vehicles must have either winter or all-season tires on all four wheels, or anti-skid devices such as chains on at least the two driving wheels.

Failure to comply will lead to a €135 fine – although the first year of the new rule will be dedicated to “education and information” before fines begin to be issued in 2022.

The law has had a lengthy passage to enforcement, being passed in 2016 and then signed into effect in 2020, leading motoring organisations to be concerned that drivers will have forgotten the new requirement.

“The information has had time to be forgotten,” said Laurent Proust, the general manager of BestDrive. “Unfortunately, as of November 1st, the gendarmes will tell you, first, that no one is supposed to ignore the law, and, second, that you are liable to a fine of €135.”

Member comments

  1. Can someone tell me if this applies to tourists (or non-French registered vehicles)?

    We’re due to go skiing in February in the French Alps and are driving there from the UK.

    Thanks!

    1. Surely if you are driving to the Alps your car should be suitably equipped, new law or no law and in the mountains this has been a requirement for years. But yes my reading of this is that just to drive out of Calais you need to. I drive to the south over the Massif Central which can snowy and icy in winter. I I always carry a set of snow socks in the boot and have done for years, take up little space, I carry a certificate in French certifying that they are legal for use on snow. Even better I now have Michelin Cross Climates.

      Best option is to replace your tyres with Michelin Cross Climates, then you are future proofed. Cross Climates perform better than summer tyres below about 8°C so are just the job for UK winters and good for Summer use as well.

      You also risk invalidating your insurance if you drive in France on illegal tyres, just like you would here driving on tyres with not enough tread. I can say that as a retired claims manager.

      1. Thanks Tony. I’ve never driven in France in the winter and it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to. I would probably have found about this when I booked the ferry in January so I’m indebted to the Local for the heads up now.

        I spoke to the garage who normally fit my tyres and they reckon January would have been too late but did confirm the requirement!

        I’m waiting for a quote from them at the moment but from what I can find out online it’s going to be in the region of £500 at least to replace all the tyres. Annoying that I had two of them replaced a year ago and have barely used the car since.

        I’ll investigate the snow socks and see if there are any other options.

        Thanks again.

          1. No worries, no offence taken. It was useful information.

            I’ve been in contact with a company who sell snow socks and they are going to investigate the new law and see if carrying snow socks (like you do) is a viable and legal alternative.

            I’ve only been to the Alps in summer. They are incredibly majestic and impressive but I find them almost too picture postcard perfect and quite claustrophobic in a strange way!

            I’m only going as part of a family group. Things we have to do…

  2. Surely the law states ‘winter tyres fitted’ or CARRYING snow chains/anti skid devices (which must be fitted if snow). As you can’t drive a vehicle with snow chains or snow socks when there is no snow!

  3. I’d like an answer to those comments too please, as I will be driving back from Herault to Calais in November.

  4. Hi William,

    we are very lucky and have an apartment in the French Alps. We spend 3 months there in winter. I now have snow tyres put on my car in November and in April I have them replaced with ordinary tyres.

    Prior to this I used these https://www.autosock.co.uk which go over my ordinary wheels/tyres. Really easy to use ie put on and take off. They also come with a certificate that they are fully legal and accepted by the Gendarmerie. The certificate is in French and also shows the French Law that they come under.

    Unfortunately you will need something the sock, chains or snow tyres. There is usually and area near the resort that is nit to far uo the mountain that is designated for drivers to put their snow socks/chains on. This will be a blue triangle with a tyre and snow chain around it.(Or at leats it is at the bottom of our resort in the Savoie region(73).

    Hope this helps and have a great holiday.

    Regards, Lou

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For members

TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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