We’re snow tyred of waiting for UK legislation

You would think that, due to the amount of accidents and call-outs in winter due to inappropriate tyres, car and van insurance companies would be lobbying parliament to make snow tyres a legal requirement in the UK, come December every year.

However, we cannot blame David Cameron for our differing stance to Europe, this time. Unlike our premier’s decision not to follow in the seventeen Eurozone states’ tracks to resolve the Euro crisis, we may be able to learn something from our continental cousins when it comes to fitting the right tyres in winter; in fact, your van insurance broker is probably taking Spanish lessons, as we speak, si?.

The UK remains one of the only EU states where it is either unusual or even illegal not to carry two sets of tyres: a set of summer slicks and winter grippers. In mountainous border regions of EU countries you would be ill-advised to attempt to traverse winding roads in winter, like Stelvios Pass with its sixty hairpin bends on the Swiss/Italian border up in Tyrol country, without snow tyres and a set of chains.

However, there are some legalities for tyres here in the UK; relating to tread depth, whatever the season, if your galvanised rubber has less than 1.6mm tread (there will be bars impressed on the grip to highlight this – when these elevations are exposed, you need to change) across the main 75% flat of the tyre, you’re running illegally. You have an accident with bald radials or cross-plys, your van insurance may pay your third party costs but, if it’s your fault, you’re unlikely to get anything back towards your own repair bill.

Another outlawed practise is having a combination of the two types of tyre, cross-ply and radial, on either end of the same axle. Neither can you fit cross-ply on your rear axle if you’re sporting radials up front. Either scenario makes the van unstable and will seriously jeopardise any resulting van insurance claim.

When it comes to snow tyres and insurance, we ask: do they incur an extra charge as an ancillary to your base van insurance policy? The general rule of thumb is no, but you should notify your van insurance provider when you change, either to or from, your winter tyres.

Providing that your snow tyres (run-flat or not) are the same spec , i.e. marked with their load carrying and speed capabilities which are legal components and should mirror your van’s capacities, as your summer tyres, you should be on the right side of the law, hence within your van insurance policy remit. However, this is still a grey area, as snow tyres are not legal in the UK, so always check with your van insurance provider before undertaking that change.

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