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DRIVING

When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

While driving is a convenient way to get from A to B - or to go on holiday - there are some key dates and locations to be aware of in Austria this summer. Here’s what you need to know.

When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer
Avoid traffic delays this summer in Austria by planning ahead. (Photo by GUENTER SCHIFFMANN / AFP)

Nothing spoils a summer holiday quicker than being stuck in traffic in sweltering weather.

It’s a situation that can be hard to avoid during the peak summer travel months of July and August, but it is possible to plan ahead to bypass the worst congestion.

Here’s The Local’s guide on when and where to expect high levels of traffic on Austrian roads this summer.

FOR MEMBERS: 7 things to know about driving in Austria this summer

Get to know Austria’s traffic calendar

The traffic calendar (Staukalender, in German) is exactly how it sounds – it’s a calendar displaying important dates where travellers could be impacted by congestion on the roads.

The calendar is compiled by the Austrian Automobile, Motorcycle and Touring Club (ÖAMTC), a traffic club and non-profit association that was established to support and represent drivers and cyclists in Austria.

Every year Barbara Kner from ÖAMTC Mobility Information collects details about public holidays, planned construction work, border controls and events.

The ÖAMTC then uses this information to create the traffic calendar and traffic volume forecasts to help motorists better plan their trips.

READ MORE: Austria sees scores of flight cancellations after airline staff contract Covid

How does the traffic calendar work?

The traffic calendar is very simple to use.

Simply click the link and then browse through the pages on a month-by-month basis. 

The main events and planned construction projects are already in the calendar, so you can see where you might come across traffic on your journey and make any necessary changes to an itinerary.

You can also click on a specific date to be redirected to the ÖAMTC route planner for further details about traffic, parking spots and nearby petrol stations.

Both the traffic calendar and the route planner are available on desktop or via the ÖAMTC app.

Key dates in the traffic calendar for summer 2022 (and beyond)

Here are some key dates from the traffic calendar for the coming months.

School summer holidays – July to September

In 2022, the start of the school summer holidays will be staggered over the first two weekends in July, with regions in the east of Austria starting on July 2nd and the west on July 9th.

The ÖAMTC warns that the second weekend in July typically sees higher levels of traffic on roads in Austria, followed by the start of the Bavarian travel season on August 1st.

The last northbound wave of returning holidaymakers is expected on the main transit routes during the second weekend in September.

READ ALSO: Can I use my foreign driving licence in Austria?

Planned construction

Every year, major construction works are planned during the summer months while the weather is usually warm and dry, but it often plays havoc with travel plans for travellers in Austria.

In 2022, construction work is due to take place on the Ofenauer and Hiefler tunnels on the A10 in the province of Salzburg from September. 

Construction work on a chain of tunnels in Werfen (Zetzenberg, Helbersberg, Brentenberg) will also take place at the same time and the projects are scheduled to run until 2025 with breaks for summer traffic.

As a result, motorists should expect to hit traffic before entering the tunnels while work is ongoing.

Festivals

Electric Love takes place at the Salzburgring just outside of Salzburg from July 7th to 9th.

The FM4 Frequency Festival will be held from August 18th to 20th in St. Pölten in Lower Austria.

Both festivals are expected to create high levels of traffic, both on the way to the venue and afterwards.

As a precautionary measure, the ÖAMTC breakdown service will set up its own base at the site of these festivals or within the local area to provide assistance to motorists.

FOR MEMBERS: How to explore the Austrian mountains in the summer like a local

Major sporting events

Other important events that are likely to cause congestion on Austrian roads are the F1 GP race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Styria, on July 10th.  This is then followed by the MotoGP on August 21st. 

For both events, delays are likely on the Murtal Expressway (S36) before and after the race so be sure to plan ahead when travelling to the track.

Likewise, the F1 GP race in Hungary on July 31st is expected to cause traffic jams at the Austrian/Hungarian border in Nickelsdorf on the A4.

From 2nd to 3rd September, AirPower – the annual aircraft event with performances from the Red Bull Skydiving team and the Austrian Armed Forces – will take place in Zeltweg in Styria. 

Motorists could encounter traffic on the S36 during this time (particularly for people arriving or leaving the site).

READ MORE: The best Austrian wineries to visit this summer

Marathons and Ironman events

Ironman competitions will take place at Lake Wörthersee in Carinthia on July 3rd, and in Zell am See in Salzburg on August 28th. Motorists should expect traffic delays and road closures in the regions both the day before and on the morning of the events.

The Wachau Marathon will be held on September 25th along the B3 in Emmersdorf to Krems. As a result, the B3 will be closed to vehicles from 8am.

The Kleine Zeitung Graz Marathon takes place on October 9th, which means many roads in the city centre are closed on October 8th and 9th. Instead, park and ride options will be available and a limited service of buses and trams by the Graz Linien.

In Lower Austria, the Linz Donau Marathon is on October 23rd. From 5.30am there will be extensive road closures throughout the city centre and the Vöest freeway bridge will be closed from 2am to 12pm.

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DRIVING

Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter

Austria is known for having long, cold winters, which can impact conditions on the roads. Here’s what you need to know about driving in Austria in the winter. From tips to make your trip smoother to the rules you need to follow.

Everything you need to know about driving in Austria in winter

Austria’s infrastructure is built for winter weather. As soon as the temperature starts to drop overnight, gritting trucks are out in force, and roads are quickly cleared of snow during winter storms.

This makes driving in Austria during the winter months so much easier, but there are a few rules to follow as well.

Here’s everything you need to know about driving in Austria in the winter.

FOR MEMBERS: Reader question: Can I take the Austrian driving licence test in English?

Winter tyres

In Austria, all cars and lorries weighing up to 3.5 tonnes must be fitted with winter tyres from November 1 to April 15 of the following year. This is to ensure drivers are prepared for wintry conditions on the roads, such as snow and ice.

A driver can be fined €35 if caught driving without winter tyres during this time. If other road users are put in danger as a result, the fine can be up to €5,000.

The law also has consequences for insurance claims in the event of an accident while driving in the winter with summer tyres. For example, if there is a crash but the driver claims it wasn’t their fault, they have to prove that the accident would have still happened even with winter tyres to avoid blame. They then have the so-called “burden of proof”. 

Also, a tyre only qualifies as an official winter tyre (or all-season tyre) if it has one of the following labels: M+S, M.S., M&S or the snowflake symbol. 

READ ALSO: Can I use my foreign driving licence in Austria?

Snow chains and spike tyres

Between November 1 and April 15, all lorries (with a maximum weight of more than 3.5 tonnes) and all buses must carry snow chains for at least two wheels.

But the snow chains should only be used when absolutely necessary. Such as when a road is covered with snow or ice.

The use of studded tyres is illegal in Austria during the months of June, July, August and September. And if you want to use them in the winter, you need to display a studded tyre sticker (Spikeaufkleber) in the rear of the vehicle.

Spike tyres are only typically fitted on industrial or agricultural vehicles, and are not often used on Austrian roads as they can damage the surface.

Removal of snow and ice from the car

In Austria, drivers are required to clear all windows of snow and ice before driving. In fact, only clearing a small “viewing window” is illegal and can impact an insurance claim if there is an accident.

Drivers also have to clear snow from the lights and licence plate, including on a trailer. And it’s recommended to remove snow or ice from the top of a car as it can fall across the windshield while driving.

READ MORE: The story of how half of Austria drove on the left and half on the right – for 20 years

Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

Road gritting and snow clearing

Municipal governments are responsible for gritting and clearing snow on public roads.

The system in Austria works well with gritting trucks regularly maintaining roads throughout the winter. As a result, roads are rarely blocked due to snow or ice in residential areas or on main roads.

However, owners of property also have to chip in and are required to clear snow from pavements and footpaths within 3 metres of their property. If there are no footpaths, then the road must be cleared and gritted within one metre of the property. 

Weather forecasts

When driving during the winter months in Austria it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast in advance – especially if setting out on a long trip. 

If heavy snow or extremely cold temperatures are predicted then try to postpone the journey, if possible. But if you have to drive, pack a few essentials in case there are delays. 

Must-have items include drinking water, a flask of tea/coffee, a shovel for clearing snow, a warm coat, gloves, a torch and a mobile phone.

Winter weather can vary between regions in Austria, particularly in the Alps. But a little bit of planning can make a big difference to your journey.

Useful links

The Austrian Federal Government guide to driving in winter

Austria by road (travel guide)

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