Motorists don't know that Germany, Austria and Sweden all require winter tyres at certain times.

Nine in 10 British drivers are unaware which countries require winter tyres by law, according to new research.

A study from the Motor Ombudsman found that 87 percent of motorists have no idea which European countries require drivers to use winter tyres and when the regulation is enforced, leaving them at risk of a fine should they venture across the channel.

Although winter tyres are not mandatory at any time in any part of the UK, some European countries, including Austria, Finland, Germany and Sweden, have laws that make winter tyres a necessity.

However, these countries have varying laws regarding when winter tyres are necessary. In Sweden, for example, the tyres are required between December 1 and March 31, while the tyres are legal necessities in Austria between November 1 and April 15 if the roads are covered with snow or ice.

Car tires on winter road

According to tyre manufacturer Michelin, winter tyres provide “better grip and handling” in cold weather, as well as “reduced braking distances” on slippery roads.

However, the Ombudsman’s study of more than 1,400 motorists found that just six in 10 drivers (60 percent) understand the advantages of winter tyres, while 61 percent understood how the tyres differ from their summer equivalents.

Winter snow driving on a country road in North Yorkshire UK

Almost nine in 10 (89 percent), though, were aware that winter tyres increase grip in cold conditions, but just under a third (28 percent), were aware that the tyres were at their most effective when the temperature drops below seven degrees.

Bill Fennell, chief ombudsman and managing director of the Motor Ombudsman, said it was important that drivers understand the advantages of winter tyres and familiarise themselves with the local laws when travelling abroad.

Heavy snow on the PlockenPass route of the Austrian Alps

“The research paints an interesting and contrasting picture of the nation’s familiarity of winter tyres,” he said. “On the one hand, they 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 therefore reinforces the need for car owners, before they set off on their journey this winter, to spend time doing research and to make sure that they are prepared to avoid falling foul of the law, which ultimately compromises safety. In addition, it’s just as important that motorists visit a reputable garage, such as one accredited to The Motor Ombudsman, that is qualified to fit them and to provide the right guidance to meet the needs of customers.”

Tire in winter with traffic sign