Winter tyres and snow chains There is a winter equipment obligation for motorists on Austrian roads!
From 1 November to 15 April of the following year, passenger cars are subject to a situational winter equipment obligation.
As of 1 January 2008 drivers using Austria's roads are required, under the 29th amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act (KFG), to have appropriate winter equipment.
Between 1 November and 15 April of the following year drivers of private cars and goods vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes maximum gross vehicle weight must be suitably equipped for winter conditions. That means that drivers using the roads in wintry conditions during this period must have winter tyres fitted.
Drivers of goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes maximum gross vehicle weight and buses must comply with a winter tyres requirement. That means that the vehicle must always be fitted with winter tyres during the prescribed period, whether there is snow on the roads or not. This requirement applies to goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes from 1 November to 15 April and to buses from 1 November to 15 March.
When there is snow, slush or ice on the roads, private cars and goods vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes must be equipped for winter driving conditions with winter tyres fitted on all four wheels. Please remember that as the temperature falls, a road surface that is simply wet can turn into black ice, in which case the winter tyres requirement applies. So it is a good idea, during the winter months, to keep an eye on the weather forecast.
Under the winter tyres requirement for goods vehicles and buses, winter tyres must be appropriately marked and fitted on at least one drive axle.
Winter tyres are recognised as such in law if they bear the markings "Matsch und Schnee" (German for "mud/slush and snow"), commonly abbreviated to: M+S, M.S. or M&S.
In addition, tyres on private cars and goods vehicles up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes must have a tread depth of at least 4 millimetres in the case of radial tyres (commonest type) and 5 millimetres in the case of cross-ply tyres. The same applies to so-called all-season tyres, all-weather tyres and spikes.
Tyres of goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes must have a minimum tread depth of 6 millimetres (cross-ply) and 5 millimetres (radials).
Summer tyres with snow chains
Private cars and goods vehicles up to a maximum gross vehicle weight of 3.5 tonnes may use snow chains instead of winter tyres. Chains must be fitted to at least two drive wheels. But this is only permitted where the road is continually or almost always under snow or ice.
So if you are making a longer journey and your car is fitted with summer tyres, it is a good idea to play safe and carry snow chains in the boot.
Compulsory carriage of chains by goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes and buses
Drivers of goods vehicles with a maximum gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 tonnes or buses must carry with them suitable snow chains for at least two drive wheels during the period 1 November to 15 April.
This does not apply to vehicles
- whose construction is such that snow chains cannot be fitted;
- whose construction and purpose is such that they will only ever be used on snow-free roads;
- buses providing a scheduled public transport service.
Consequences of driving with the wrong tyres
Driving in winter road conditions without winter tyres or snow chains incurs a fine of € 35. If other road users are endangered as a result, fines of up to € 5 000 may be imposed.
Burden of proof in accidents involving a vehicle fitted with summer tyres
Introduction of the requirement for vehicles to have appropriate winter equipment has created a reverse burden of proof. This means that anyone who has an accident whilst driving with summer tyres must prove that the accident would still have happened if winter tyres or chains had been fitted. Otherwise the driver is in any event deemed to be partially at fault.
If there are uncertainties about who is at fault following an accident or in settling the insurance claim, it is a good idea to consult your automobile club's legal advice department.