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DRIVING

Half-price travelcards for Geneva seniors who give up driving licence

The canton of Geneva is launching a special public transport offer for senior citizens to encourage them to make the difficult decision to give up driving.

Half-price travelcards for Geneva seniors who give up driving licence
Photo: photography33/Depositphotos
From next Monday the first 100 people aged over 70 who hand back their driving licence to the authorities can get a half price annual senior citizen public transport card – meaning it will cost them 200 francs instead of 400 francs. 
 
In addition, the three quickest can get it completely free if they turn up at the canton’s vehicle service offices between 11am and 1pm on Monday March 5th, reported Le Matin on Friday.
 
The plan was devised by Geneva cantonal minister Luc Barthassat in order to help seniors make the “difficult decision” to give up their driving licence, said the paper. 
 
But the measure, which will cost the canton 20,000 francs, has not been universally appreciated. 
 
Joël Goldstein, director of Pro Senectute, which  works to support the quality of life of elderly people, told the paper he understood the idea but said the money could be better spent on an awareness campaign targeting all 41,000 70-89-year-olds in the canton, not just financially incentivizing one hundred of them.
 
“It shouldn’t be about encouraging seniors to give up their permit for financial gain, but making them aware that giving up their licence is about being a responsible citizen,” he said. 
 
 
Geneva is one of the most heavily congested cities in the world. 
 
A recent survey found that drivers in the city spend an average of 52 hours in slow traffic every year, or 16 percent of their overall driving time.
 
The federal government has committed to enlarging Geneva’s bypass motorway by 2015 to cope with increasing traffic, while plans for a bridge over the lake have long been touted and may – eventually – come to pass. 
 
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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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