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Old 09.04.2010, 13:56
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Traffic Offences - Q & A Bullet points

There seem to be a lot of threads, speculation, horror stories etc, relating to Traffic Offences in Switzerland. I’m looking to answer some of the more FAQ here, so we can avoid some of the drag-on discussions that waste digital space.

Q. I have moved to Switzerland. Back in my home country, I was a frequent speeder / traffic offender / fender bender. I’m probably gonna break traffic laws here. What can I do before hand?

A. Good question, glad you’re pro-active and aware that you’re vehicularly challenged. Firstly, obtain traffic legal insurance – known in german-speaking Switzerland as Verkehrs-Rechtsschutzversicherung. If you haven’t choked on that word already, it costs about 200chf a year… you can combine it with non-traffic insurance.

Make sure your car is roadworthy, that you carry your licence, registration, passport and resident permit at all times. Also, ensure your car has a current emissions-test certificate.

Q. I let others use my car. What if something happens and someone else is driving?

A. If you own the car, you are responsible for knowing who is driving at any given time, and that they are licensed to do so. If you use another person’s car, it is useful to have a separate insurance that cover’s the cost if you are at fault in an accident, freeing the owner of liability.

Q. I think I got caught on a speed camera…it flashed. What happens now? Will I lose my licence?

A. Depends on how fast you were going. Less serious infringements take normally up to 3 weeks to arrive in the mail, and require a fixed payment within 30 days or so and the matter is dealt with. Court-determined penalties take longer, and in serious cases may even involve a personal visit from police or an "invitation" to attend a police station. Please refer to this table of penalties and administrative action for speeding.

UPDATE : See also this thread regarding law change from January 2013 -

Q. I got caught by a camera speeding, and I was on the phone/not wearing a seatbelt as well. Will I get a fine for both?

A. Most likely, yes. Depends on the camera angle.

Q. Are red light cameras also speed cameras? Do they operate as speed cameras when the lights are off or flashing yellow?

A. Newer models have a dual-function..and yes, the speed detection function also works when the lights are off or flashing yellow.

Q. Do police have to stop me to issue me with a traffic fine?

A. No.They can post a fine or summons to the registered owner, who is assumed to be the driver.

Q. I got stopped by the police for X offence, and he asked if I wanted to pay the fine in cash on the spot. Is this allowed or is this corruption?

A. In Switzerland, you can (and in some cases as a non-resident, must ) pay cash for fixed-penalty offences. You must demand / receive an official receipt for the full amount.

Q. I got caught on a speed camera travelling closer to the speed of sound than the speed limit. I can’t afford to lose my licence. Can I nominate another person who is willing to take the fall?

A. Rule #1 – don’t lie to the police...they don’t like it ,it hurts their feelings and it makes them quite upset, especially here in Switzerland. And considering that the resolution of Swiss traffic cameras is enough to easily identify your surprised-bunny-in-the-headlights melon behind the’ll get caught out and dealt with accordingly. And then it goes way beyond a traffic’re talking something similar to perverting the course of justice.

Q. I’ve got caught, got fined, and now I got a letter from the SVA saying I have to hand in my licence. But the letter does not state how long. What’s going on here?

A. The length of licence cancellation is subject to adjudication as well. If you have legal insurance, they’ll help you with this. Otherwise you can make your own representations. Depending on the offence and previous traffic history, there are minimum cancellation periods.

Q. Can I decide when I hand my licence in?

A. Within tolerances, yes. You can negotiate with the SVA on this.

Q. I’ve lost my licence. If I stick to the law, should I continue driving?

A. Do you want to dance with the devil? Driving unlicensed is very serious in Switzerland…in addition, you are not covered by insurance in the event of an accident.

Q. Do traffic offences end up on my criminal history?

A. Depends on the severity. Over a certain penalty you will receive an entry in the Strafregister (criminal register). High speeding fines, drink driving, etc. will be registered.

Q. I want to apply for naturalisation (Swiss Passport). Will my traffic history influence the application?

A. Unless the offence is entered in the Strafregister, most likely no. However in cases of standard naturalisation process, it has been known to be a deal-breaker.

Q. What is the legal alcohol limit here?

A. 0.5 pro mil (whatever that is …similar to 0.05 gr of alcohol per 100ml of blood.) Random breath testing is not a common here as in UK / Australia, but getting caught is dealt with severely, especially in the event of an accident.

Q. Are there any offences which I should particularly avoid?

A. Yes, all of them. But in particular the following, as they are not fixed penalty, and are likely to involve licence loss:

* Crossing or driving over unbroken lines (consider these lines as brick walls!)

* Undertaking (overtaking on the right side including multi-laned roads).

* Driving contrary to rail crossing lights (even if the barrier is on the way up)

* Not giving way to pedestrians at crossings

* Drink driving

* Multiple offences at the same time (eg. speeding and overtaking on the right whilst talking on your phone).
So sayeth the 'Speed
* I do look like my avatar

Last edited by mirfield; 11.02.2013 at 11:07. Reason: Added update for January 2013 speeding law change
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