Snow chains or winter tires: this is when and how to use them, so as not to incur heavy fines and travel in complete safety.
Every year, around November 15th, in Italy, I take the obligation to equip my car with winter tires or to have chains on board. The directive of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, dated January 16, 2013, requires, in fact, on some roads of the boot, that the car is equipped with thermal tires (another way of indicating winter tires) or with “non-slip means”.
In practice, these are chains or other similar objects, which have recently appeared on the market, and which allow circulation without incurring administrative sanctions. It is up to the road manager to ask the Ministry to issue legislation for the section under its jurisdiction.
This particularly applies to places where, as a rule, snow or ice is expected in the winter months and circulation without specific chains or tires can become very dangerous for motorists. Considering the morphology of the Italian territory, the obligation is put into effect on all-mountain roads and many of the highways and ring roads of northern Italy.
There are exceptions, such as in Sardinia where even on mountain roads you can travel safely with summer tires. Each body or road manager can decide the implementation dates of the measure, but in general, apart from a few exceptions, the start date is November 15th and the end date April 15th.
A different case is foreseen for the Valle d’Aosta region, where the period starts from 15 October to end, as in all other regions, on 15 April.
Times to respect
However, it is good to know that winter tires can be fitted for a longer period than the ordinance. The Ministry of Transport, in its directive, specifies that thermal tires can be installed from 15 October to 15 May, to give motorists time to adapt to the winter equipment, without chasing the dates where they are mandatory.
It is important, however, that the tires installed have a lower speed code than what is indicated in the registration document, but that this is never lower than the Q code, i.e. the one that identifies tires capable of withstanding a maximum speed of 160 km / h.
As mentioned, you can also opt for snow chains or other similar means. Snow chains are compulsory on board in the same period as winter tires are provided.
If you are surprised without chains on board (not mounted!) Or winter tires in areas where there is an obligation to adopt one of these two solutions, you will incur very high fines: from 39 to 159 euros for infringements in residential areas and from 80 to 318 euro (ex-art. 72 CDs) if you are stopped outside the inhabited centres.
The fine rises to 85 euros in case of recurrence of the crime, to which must be added a reduction of 3 points from the license. In addition to the fine, the agents who are called to carry out the traffic police services can also force motorists, without chains on board or winter tires, to stop and not continue on their journey.
In order not to incur fines, if you decide to adopt snow chains instead of winter tires, you should check the registration document. Many cars have “non-chainable” tires, a problem if you can define it, due to the size of the rim, which in some models is so large that it does not offer the necessary space for assembly.
So it is not enough to buy chains compatible with the size of your rims to think about getting away with it. Normally the agents immediately check this item on the registration document, especially when they detect very large circles.
The only solution, if you don’t want to buy thermal tires, because maybe in the area where you live they are superfluous, is to have the “snow socks” which are now recognized by the highway code as one of the products that fall into the category “Non-slip means”.
The snow socks
These special socks do not need much space to be installed as they cover the wheels, just as if it were a tight sheath. The rule is that they must be mounted on the traction wheels, and if you have a car with all-wheel drive, it is clear that they must be installed on all four.
Snow socks require a minimum of maintenance, which in practice is reduced to good washing with hot water and perfect drying at the end of each use, to prevent rusting.
If you decide to buy snow chains, it becomes essential to check the size of your tires. These measurements are displayed with three distinct numbers: the first refers to the width of the tire while the second number highlights the relationship between height and sidewall of the tire.
The third number preceded by the letter “r” concerns the radius of the circle, or rather the size of the circle. On the booklet, you will also see a fourth entry, which is then a letter, which indicates the speed code. In the choice of compatible snow chains, the latter is irrelevant. So, on the booklet, you could have a sequence of numbers similar (or equal) to this: 195 65 r15. It will be sufficient to consider them to find the right model for your wheels.