Nine in 10 (87%) of motorists are unaware which countries on mainland Europe mandate winter tyres, a survey suggests.
The latest research, commissioned by The Motor Ombudsman, surveyed 1,400 drivers in the UK and comes as part of its newly-launched campaign to increase knowledge of winter tyres.
Although winter car tyres are not a legal requirement during the onset of snowy and cold weather that sometimes sweeps the UK, they are in several countries on the continent, such as Germany, Austria and Sweden.
In addition, the laws differ as to which time of the year they are compulsory, and whether they are mandatory for only driving in wintry conditions.
However, the study revealed that only around one in 10 (13%) people know that they would need to change their car tyres to be legally compliant at their destination, with male drivers (14%), the 18 to 24s (29%), and those living in London (18%) the most up to speed regarding the rules.
Furthermore, of the individuals surveyed, less than a third (28%) stated that a winter tyre is most effective in temperatures below seven degrees.
Those in the 35 to 44 age bracket (33%) were the most well-versed when it comes to being familiar with this key benefit, with the least knowledgeable being motorists in their late teens (over 18) and early 20s (78% of the age group).
Encouragingly however, around six in 10 motorists are au fait about the advantages of winter tyres when the mercury dips, while a similar proportion (61%) are able to identify how they vary from summer equivalents.
From those who were able to state how the tyres differ, 89% knew that the grip level is improved in colder weather. More than half of survey participants explained that they deliver shorter braking distances in colder temperatures (55%), with just over one in three individuals (34%) having observed that a winter tyre features different sidewall symbols (a three-peak mountain insignia and the letters “M+S”) to that of the summer tyre commonly seen on UK roads.
Bill Fennell, chief ombudsman and managing director of The Motor Ombudsman, said: “The research paints an interesting and contrasting picture of the nation’s familiarity of winter tyres.
“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.”
The Motor Ombudsman is the automotive dispute resolution body. Thousands of businesses, including vehicle manufacturers, warranty product providers, franchised dealers and independent garages, are accredited to one or more of the Codes, which aim to drive higher standards of work and service.