Print Posted By Lost in France on 3 Feb 2009 in Living in France - Driving in France

Driving in the Alps & Other Mountain Roads

Mountain chaletBreathtaking scenery and picturesque mountain villages make driving across the French Alps and other mountain roads in France a real pleasure but you need to take care especially during the winter months.

Before You Leave

Car batteries have a lifespan of around five years and driving in cold icy conditions can place heavy demands on them. If your battery is nearing the end of its life it's advisable to replace it before you leave.

Check your tyres before you leave and replace them if necessary, a good tread of at least 3mm is needed for alpine driving. Don't forget to check the spare and to make sure that you have a wheel brace and jack on board.

Easily forgotten so check that your vehicle has antifreeze before you leave. Before topping up anti-freeze make sure that you know what kind (if any) is currently in your vehicle cooling system. Modern cars generally use long-life antifreeze which should not be mixed with any other type of anti-freeze, if you're not sure which type you're using take your car to a garage or dealer to find out.

A scratched or chipped windscreen can cause you to be dazzled by low winter sun especially when combined with reflection from snow and ice. Also be sure to check your windscreen wipers and replace them if necessary before you leave.

Safe Driving in Snow and Ice
  • Don't brake suddenly, if you find yourself going into a skid release the brakes and declutch.
  • Remember that your stopping distance is up to 10 times longer in slippery conditions.
  • Even if the road appears to be clear of snow watch out for black ice even in the daytime.
  • Check your route as some high mountain passes may be closed during bad weather.
  • Keep a set of warm, waterproof clothing in the boot in case you break down.
  • Keep topped up with fuel as garages may be few and far between.

Legal Requirements

High Visibility Vests
Travelspot Hi Vis VestMake sure that you always have a reflective jacket kept inside the car, you'll need one for each passenger and it must be within easy reach. You could be fined around €90 if you are caught without reflective jackets.

Snow Chains
Snow chains must be carried when driving on mountain roads in France during the winter months even for 4x4's. Snow chains will give your car a much better grip on snow and ice and will increase breaking performance in icy conditions.

Snow chainsGood quality snow chains are quick and easy to fit but you need to check your tyre size as this dictates the size of the snow chain you need to buy.

It is also advisable to keep a spare pair of gloves in the car ready for fitting the chains and to practice fitting the chains at home before you leave.

If you are stopped by police and are found not to be carrying snow chains you face a hefty on the spot fine.

Warning Triangle
Warning triangleA safety warning triangle must be carried in the vehicle at all times and must be placed at a distance of at least 30 metres from the vehicle should you be unfortunate enough to break down or have an accident. It's also compulsory to use your hazard lights in addition to the triangle if possible. The safety triangle must be manufactured in accordance to the Geneva regulation number 27, this means that it will be marked with an E and 27R. On the spot fines can be issued if you're found not to be carrying one.

Headlamp Converters
Headlamp ConvertersFor your own and other road users safety you need to insure that your that your headlamps are converted for driving on the right so that you do not dazzle other drivers. Headlamp converters are self adhesive stickers that are inexpensive and easy to apply.

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