For the third year in a row, the law requires the drivers of some resorts to equip their vehicles with winter tires. If many are afraid of a fine of 135 euros, it is not ready to arrive.
In 34 French departments, the police can arrest any motorist if they do not respect these regulations. Called the “mountain law,” it requires drivers traveling in mountain ranges to drive with snow tires or snow chains throughout the winter season. Specifically, in these territories, this obligation must be respected from November 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024.
“Mountain law” can apply to an entire department, as in the case of Haute-Savoie. But for other resorts, the law only applies in a few municipalities. For example, in Jura, it is effective in 272 municipalities out of 494. The prefectures of each department define in advance the list of cities in which the measure is introduced. This list is available on the road safety website. In fact, all drivers passing through geographical areas affected by the “mountain law” must respect it, even if they do not live in these departments.
All four-wheeled vehicles must comply with this requirement, including light vehicles, commercial vehicles, motorhomes, coaches, buses and heavy goods vehicles. In particular, the vehicles must be equipped with winter tires, studded tires or have metal snow chains in the boot allowing to wrap at least two driving wheels. Risk for motorists who refuse to obey the law? Well, not much.
In fact, as surprising as it may seem, there is no penalty for drivers violating the “mountain law”. If the text prescribes a fine of 135 euros for motorists who do not respect this rule, the sanction is not feasible. The issue is that for the third year in a row, since his vote in 2021, the “mountain law” leniency period has been extended by another year.
It is clear that the police and gendarmes can stop vehicles that do not follow the rules and reprimand the driver, but the driver cannot be fined. For the penalties to actually apply, the government would have to issue an ordinance specifically authorizing fines and penalties for motorists who do not follow the law.
However, “mountain law” can have an impact on the coverage offered by auto insurance policies. In the event of an accident on a vehicle with equipment unsuitable for climatic conditions, the insurance company can reduce, sometimes significantly, the compensation payable.