Health checks on elderly drivers could start later

The Swiss lower house of parliament has backed a proposal to ease regulations requiring motorists aged 70 and over to pass medical checkups every two years to be able to continue driving.

Health checks on elderly drivers could start later
Photo: AFP

The house of representatives on Wednesday voted 97 to 82 in favour of making the checkups mandatory starting at the age of 75.

The proposal was promoted by Maximilian Reimann, a Swiss People’s Party politician from the canton of Aargau, who is 73, the ATS news agency reported.

It calls for the government to conduct an awareness campaign so that elderly drivers can decide for themselves when they should stop driving.

Swiss regulations concerning elderly drivers are significantly stricter than in neighbouring European countries.

In France, Austria and Germany seniors who drive are not subject to regular checkups and they can decide when they want to relinquish their driving permits.

Switzerland doesn’t need to go that far but it’s time to end discrimination against the elderly in the country, Reimann said, according to ATS.

The number of retired foreigners who are driving on Swiss roads has not led to a higher rate of accidents than among their counterparts living in Switzerland, he argued.

Left-wing parties, however, maintained that medical checks for those 70 and over were not discriminatory and started at a good time.

It cannot be contested that driving aptitude diminishes with age, even is this is variable depending on the individual involved, Roger Nordmann, a Socialist from the canton of Vaud said.

The initiative goes now to the senate (upper house of parliament) for consideration.

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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.