Swiss Vacations

Driving in Switzerland

Below you will find some information about Swiss driving norms, including:

>> Basic Rules and Regulations  Speed Limits  Right of Way  Swiss Motorway Tax 

>>Road Signs   Breakdown Assistance  Parking  Drink Driving  Useful Information


Some Rules & Regulations:

  • Drive on the right in Switzerland
  • Third-party insurance is obligatory
  • Seat belts are compulsory for all occupants
  • Children under 12 are not allowed to sit in the front seat without an appropriate child restraint
  • Hazard lights may only be used to warn of danger
  • No honking is allowed after dark
  • Noise from car occupants that could disturb people is prohibited
  • The minimum driving age is 18
  • Mobile phones may only be used with a hands-free system
  • Headlights must be used in tunnels
  • Headlights should be on and dipped during daylight hours, especially on major routes
  • Each car must carry a red warning triangle and a reflective vest
  • All vehicle paperwork should be carried: driving licence, insurance details, exhaust emissions test certificate, car registration papers
  • Drivers using spectacles or contact lenses must carry spare spectacles in the car
  • Snow chains are obligatory in some winter conditions
  • It is illegal to drive if the windscreen is partly or completely obscured by frost; it is illegal to let the car idle to aid clearing the windscreen
  • Helmets are compulsory for driver and passenger on all scooters, motorbikes, quad bikes and trikes
  • Radar detectors are illegal
  • Approved child seats are compulsory for children up to the age of 12 and measuring less than 150 cm. Seats must be conform to ECE Regulation R44.03 or R44.04 (versions R44.01 and R44.02 are no longer be allowed). If a baby seat is installed on the passenger seat facing away from the traffic, the air bags must be deactivated.  A new child seat should have the ISOFIX (International Standards Organisation FIX) logo which is a new standard for installing child seats in a quick and simple way.
     
Speed Limits:
  • 120 km/h: motorways/highways (green sign)
  • 100 km/h: dual carriageways or semi-autoroutes (green sign)
  • 80 km/h: outside built-up areas (except on dual-carriageways and motorways)
  • 50 km/h: within towns and villages
  • 30km/h: in some residential areas

Priority / Right of way:

  • Right of way: When driving in a city, town or village, the right of way at an intersection is automatically given to the vehicle on the right - priorité à droite - unless otherwise indicated by stop or yield/give way signs. This applies even in the case of a small side road entering a major main road. The vehicle traveling on the main road must give way to the vehicle entering on the right
  • Trams, police vehicles, ambulances, fire engines and busses have the right of way over passenger cars
  • At a traffic circle: (rond point, roundabout) the vehicle already on the circle has the right of way over vehicles joining from the right
  • On hill roads: the car travelling uphill has priority over the one coming down
  • Pedestrians have the right of way at black and white striped (zebra) crossings

Motorway Tax - The Vignette:

  • Any vehicle (including motorcycles) and trailer up to 3.5 tonnes using the motorway (roads marked by green signs) must pay a motorway tax.
  • To show that the tax has been paid, a sticker (vignette routièere) must be displayed in the windscreen. This is valid for one year (1 January to 31 December) and can be bought at post offices, service stations, automobile associations, railway stations and border crossings.
  • Failure to display the vignette when driving on an autoroute will result in a fine plus the cost of the vignette.
  • The vignette for a car costs CHF 40 and must be bought for the same price regardless of how long the vehicle will be in Switzerland (a day or a year).

Road Signs:

  • Motorway signs (autoroute / Autobahn): green background  (be aware that in France, Austria and Germany the motorway signs are blue)
  • Other road direction signs: blue background  
  • Prohibition signs: red border and have a black symbol over white background
  • Obligation signs: narrow white border and a white symbol over blue background
  • Snow chains: on mountain roads, it often is mandatory to put snow chains on the tyres. In winter, insurance companies will not accept responsibility for vehicles that do not have winter tyres

There are four languages in Switzerland so road signs and information change across the country.
Examples: "Exit" on the motorway is a sortie (French) and Ausfahrt (German); Geneva can be written as Gèneve (French) or Ginevra (Italian)
 

Breakdown Assistance:

  • Road conditions and traffic information (24/7) Tel: 163
  • Breakdown, assistance (24/7 free) police emergency Tel: 117
  • Accident assistance (24/7 free) ambulance emergency Tel: 144
  • The Touring Club of Switzerland (TCS) is a national breakdown and recovery service which operates throughout Switzerland. Membership details (in French, Italian, German) are on the website along with up-to-the-minute traffic information, ski and road snow reports and insurance information.Emergency assistance Tel: 800 140 140

Parking:
There are strict fines - and a risk of towing - for drivers who break parking laws.
Parking options are:
  • Park & Ride: parking areas on the outskirts of a town centre with a bus, tram or ferry service to complete the journey
  • White Zones: free parking places for unlimited time
  • White Zones Pay & Display: on-street pay-parking with time limitations. A ticket bought at a street machine is displayed on the dashboard. The car licence plate number must be entered before paying for the ticket
  • Blue Zones: for drivers displaying a blue parking disc (available from police stations, tourist offices and banks). The dial on the blue disc must be set to the time on parking. This provides an amount, usually 90 minutes, of free parking.
    Blue zones are often free out of peak hours.
  • Red Zones: parking is free for up to 15 hours with a red parking disc (available from police stations, tourist offices and banks)
  • Parking meters: many streets have metered parking areas. In some, parking is free at night and over lunch
  • Car Parks/Parking Garages: While more expensive than other parking options, they are usually more convenient and secure. Take a ticket on entry and pay at a booth before returning to the car. Do not drive to the exit to pay.

Note: Yellow Zones: Parking forbidden


Petrol:

  • Unleaded petrol is 95 or 98 octane
  • Diesel is more expensive in Switzerland than unleaded petrol

Drink Driving:
Driving under the influence of alcohol in Switzerland: The blood/alcohol limit in Switzerland is 50 milligram's of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (0.5 grams/litre). This has been in place since January 2005.

  • Drivers with an alcohol level between 0.5 g/l and 0.79 g/l will be charged with a fine and could be taken to jail. 
  • If the level is higher than 0.8 g/l, in addition to the fine and the possibility of being arrested, the driver's licence will be confiscated for at least three months. 
  • If a passenger of a drunk driver has a driving licence, they are equally responsible
  • The police have the right to perform spot breathalyser tests.

Useful Information:

  • It is common for Swiss drivers to switch off their engines at traffic lights and railway crossings as well as in traffic jams to reduce pollution
  • Traffic lights flashing amber outside peak rush hours mean "proceed with caution"
  • A person carrying a driving licence without a photo should also carry some form of photo ID (passport)
  • If a car is not registered in the driver's name the driver should carry a letter from the registered owner authorising the use
  • There are towns in Switzerland which are inaccessible by road, for example the resorts of Zermatt, Braunwald, Murren and Wengen are only accessible by train or tram. Cars are parked at the bottom of the mountain and public transport is available in the resort
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