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Get to grips with winter tyres when driving abroad

At a time when many motorists are making plans to drive abroad for Christmas or for the start of the ski season, a YouGov survey has found that 87% of car owners are unaware which Continental European countries require winter tyres to be fitted.

Commissioned by The Motor Ombudsman, the study of over 1,400 car owners was part of the Ombudsman’s campaign to increase consumer knowledge of winter tyres, and to highlight the importance of having them fitted.

Although winter car tyres are not a legal requirement in the UK, they are in several countries – including in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. In addition, the laws vary with regard to the time of year they are compulsory, and whether they are mandatory for driving in wintry conditions only.

The survey found that only 13% of people knew they would need to change their tyres to be legally compliant at their destination.Furthermore, only 28% were aware that a winter tyre is most effective in temperatures below seven degrees.

Encouragingly however, around 60% were au fait with the advantages of winter tyres, and a similar proportion were able to identify how they vary from summer equivalents.

Of those who were able to state how the tyres differ, 89% knew that grip level is improved in colder weather; 55% explained that braking distances are shorter in colder temperatures; and 34% knew that a winter tyre features different sidewall symbols (a three-peak mountain insignia and the letters “M+S”) than summer tyres.

“The research paints an interesting and contrasting picture,” Bill Fennell, Chief Ombudsman and MD of The Motor Ombudsman, said. “On one hand, motorists are knowledgeable about the merits that winter tyres offer in more challenging conditions but, on the other, there is significantly less understanding of what the laws are when heading abroad.This reinforces the need for car owners, before they set off on a journey this winter, to spend time doing research and to make sure they are prepared.”