Rules and regulations

How to safely get through winter

Winter is coming. Source: iStock

When the car windows are frosted over, one might be tempted to scrape free only a small area of the windscreen while letting the engine warm up, and then drive off. If you are using your car in winter, you should be familiar with a few rules to avoid getting fined. Be on the safe side with our five winter tips.

Fit winter tyres early

While you won't get fined if you are pulled over by the police with summer tyres, it is still advisable to fit your car with winter tyres if the temperature drops to seven degrees Celsius or below. If you cause an accident or are involved in one while driving with summer tyres in wintry weather, your car insurance may reduce benefits. So, changing tyres ultimately saves money. Changing insurance sometimes does the same: compare car insurance now to find out whether yours is still a good value or whether you might be cheaper off with a new one.

In the pre-Christmas period, when it grows dark early, it is particularly important to keep in mind that it is mandatory to drive with lights on with all motor vehicles – even in daytime. If you are caught with your lights off, the fine is 40 francs.

De-ice your entire windscreen

It is not enough to simply scrape free a small area of your snow-covered windscreen. The entire windscreen must be free from ice and snow. If you don't have full visibility, you risk a fine and even a suspension of your driving license for a month or more. De-icing your car using hot water is not advisable. This might cause your windscreen to burst.

Remove all snow

All snow on the roof, bonnet and hatch door or boot lid of your car must be removed before driving off. Snow falling off a car on the road can be a danger to the
cars following behind it. Please note that it is forbidden to leave the engine on while scraping windows and removing snow from your car.

Always secure skis and snowboards properly

Skis and snowboards should be carried on the roof with a special rack – and not on the passenger seat or backseat. The reason for this is that full braking can cause sports equipment to hit both driver and passengers with full force and inflict severe injuries. It is permitted to carry sports equipment in the appropriate opening in the rear seatback. Careful if carrying sports equipment in a roof box: the maximum roof load specified in the vehicle registration certificate must not be exceeded.

Parking space covered with snow – do I have to pay the fee?

Yes and no – if a parking space, and thus its number, is covered with snow, it depends on the leniency of the police. In cantons where it is rare for parking field numbers to be invisible due to snow, they might turn a blind eye. In snow-prone cantons such as Graubünden or Valais, however, it does not matter whether the parking spot is snow-covered or not. If necessary, you are required to shovel the number clear. By the way: during the holiday season you should still avoid exceeding the allowed parking time. Even the long queue at the checkout cannot be blamed as we have never heard of a ‘Christmas amnesty’ for parking offenders.