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DRIVING

Thousands of Swiss drivers lack valid permits

Close to 8,000 new motorists are driving on Swiss roads without valid permits, a report on Sunday said.

Thousands of Swiss drivers lack valid permits
Photo: Federal highways office

The drivers have invalid temporary permits because they failed to complete the training they are obliged to follow after passing a practical test, the SonntagsZeitung newspaper said.

The paper cited statistics from the federal highways office that showed 7,991 new drivers had failed to follow the two mandatory courses within three years of passing their test.

Such motorists risk a stiff fine amounting to their pay for 180 days and face having to recommence the process of obtaining their licence from square one,

In case of accidents, such drivers are also uninsured, the newspaper said.

In 2005, Switzerland introduced a two-phased driving permit system.

The system requires candidates who pass their driving test to follow two courses within three years to fully validate their probationary licence.

The highways office said in most cases the fault lay with motorists for not taking the courses.

But the Tribune de Genève said a great number of drivers simply forget to renew their temporary licences.

A proposal has been made in the lower house of parliament to make the training courses optional but this has yet to be approved by the senate or the highways office.

The office does not issue reminders to temporary licence-holders when their term for completing the4 courses closes, leaving that responsibility to the motorists.

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DRIVING

Reader question: Can I take the Swiss driving test in English?

There are quite a few things to learn and remember when taking an exam for a driver’s licence, and it's even more daunting in a foreign language. These are the rules in Switzerland.

Reader question: Can I take the Swiss driving test in English?

Whether you’re learning to drive in Switzerland or already have a licence from your home country but have to exchange it for a Swiss one (as you must do after 12 months of residency), you will have to take a test — certainly in the former case and likely in the latter one.

The rule is that if your licence was issued by a EU or EFTA country (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), you’ll be able to get a Swiss licence without having to take a driving test.

READ MORE: How to change over to a Swiss driver’s licence

This also generally applies to countries with which Switzerland has concluded an agreement to mutually recognise each others’ licences: Andorra, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Morocco,  Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, and the United States.

Nationals of all other countries — that is, whose foreign driver’s licences can’t be automatically exchanged for a Swiss one — will have to take a test.

What you should know:

The Swiss driving test includes a written exam and a practical road test. There is no such thing as a national test, with each canton administering tests and issuing licences (which, of course, are then valid across the country).

Applications for the theory and the practical exams are made at your local Road Traffic Office (Strassenverkehrsamt in German, Office Cantonal des Automobiles et de la Navigation in French, and Servizio della circolazione e della navigazione in Italian). 

Addresses and contact information for each cantonal office can be found here.

Can you take the test in English?

In most cantons, theory exams are given in one of the national languages (German, French and Italian). Only a few — Bern, Glarus, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Neuchâtel, Schwyz, Vaud and Zurich — offer the theory test in English.

If you don’t live in one of these nine cantons and you are not fluent enough in German/French/Italian to take the test, a translator may be present, but only one who is certified by your local Road Traffic Office. Contact the department to ask where and how to find a suitable interpreter.

As for the practical driving test, you can request an English-speaking examiner, but there is no guarantee that you’ll get one.

EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

At the very least, you should learn basic driving terms — such as right and left turns, lane change, parking instructions, etc. — in the local language.

These will be taught to you if you take your driving lessons in German, French, or Italian (rather than English), which may prove more difficult to begin with, but will prove useful when the time comes to pass your exams.

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