Snowy driving

snow chains signReputations. England has the reputation of simply closing down when snow settles on the roads. France somehow manages to keep on going. Certainly, here in the Alps, a typical local driver tackles snow as just another winter obstacle on the roads filled with the slow cars of tourists (why not overtake on a corner?), speed humps (who bothers slowing down?), late-night drunks (what alcohol limit?) and iced up windows (why drive with a fully defrosted windscreen when you can have the novelty of a peephole instead?). However, the Alps are equipped for snow: local council tractors and trucks scrape the snow off the road regularly; cars are required by law to be equipped with snow tyres and/or chains in many areas; the locals have lots of experience in driving in the snow, and the tow trucks are on standby for any accidents.

Meanwhile, in England, train networks, major roads and airports have closed for days because they can’t deal with the snow. Actually, the snow seems to turn to ice faster and for longer in England. Tragically, a bus hit some ice in the South of England and at least two people died and many more were injured. When the first emergency services car arrived, it too hit the ice and crashed into the overturned bus. While the European Alps benefit from all those services mentioned above, the average Brit is left skating on thin ice, literally. And even with all these services, I’ve seen some extremely bad driving in the past few days. I’ve lost count of the cars with snow chains on even though the roads are now totally clear of snow. A day earlier when the roads were snowy, a man shook his fist at me (leaving me bemused and amused rather than angry) after I didn’t just stop my car while he and his family walked up my side of the road (I drove beside them while no cars came from the other direction). Hello: when you’re driving up a hill on slippery snow and you stop, chances are you might not get going again. It’s a road: walk on the side of it and not in the middle, especially when the roads are slippery. I should have shaken my fist back at him. That same day, I drove along a road and there was a tow-truck winching up a smashed car. It had smashed into the side of the road. Three hours later,  the tow-truck was still there — winching a different car which had smashed into another car which was waiting for a tow truck.

After seeing all this, I can’t help but wonder if England has the right idea.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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2 comments on “Snowy driving
  1. I love it when it snows, but only when I don’t have to go out in it. I lived in a part of Germany where it didn’t snow that much but everyone still had to have their snow tires on. On a snowy day there would be lots of mercs that would get stuck in any tiny patch of snow thanks to their rear wheel drives…which means pretty much every taxi. I gave up counting the amount of times I saw a taxi stuck in snow and kind passers by giving a push.
    Now I live in a part of Japan where it doesn’t snow often but when it does, you do see people doing ridiculous things like trying to stop suddenly and skidding into the middle of an intersection…it really is better to just stay home if you can or get some chains and a 4WD.

  2. Samantha says:

    You’re kind of comparing apples to oranges here – of course the Alps are better equipped, it snows all the time there! But the rest of France is just like England – everything comes to a screeching halt and chaos ensues. Last week, my train was delayed by 1 hr because 1 piddly centimeter of snow had fallen (and subsequently melted) during the day. A few days later, my flight out of CDG was delayed by 2 hours because of the snow.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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