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EXPLAINED: What you should know about speeding fines in Switzerland

What happens if you are caught driving over the speed limit on Swiss roads? It all depends on how fast you drive, in what kind of neighbourhood you are, and how many other speeding violations you already have. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What you should know about speeding fines in Switzerland
No mazzrt how fast you drive, police will catch up with you. Photo by AFP

What are the speed limits in Switzerland?

The maximum allowed speed is determined by the roads and areas in which you travel.

On motorways it is 120 km/h, reduced to 100 km / h on main roads (Autostrassen / semi-autoroutes / semiautostrade).

On roads in built-up areas located outside towns the speed is 80 km / h, and in the cities, 50 km /h.

Then there are some streets near schools, in residential areas or in villages, where the speed is reduced to 30 km / hour.

Speed limits can also be temporarily adjusted in the event of road repairs or construction work.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What changes on Switzerland’s roads in 2021? 

What are the penalties for speeding?

Again, it depends on where you are caught and how fast you were driving.

If you exceed the speed limit by up to 5 km / h, your fine will be 20 francs on the motorway and 40 francs if the infraction happened on main or secondary roads.

The fine for driving between 6 and 10 km / h over the legal limit is 60 francs on the motorway, 100 on the main roads, and 120 francs in built-up areas.

Driving 11 to 15 km/h over the maximum speed will cost you 120 francs on the motorway, 160 on the main road, and 250 in built-up areas.

Exceeding the limit by over 16 to 20 km/h gets you in more trouble: 180 francs on the motorway and 240 on the main road. But if you get caught dashing at this speed through a built-up area, you will be issued a heftier fine or a summons to appear in court.

You will receive a payment slip by registered letter, which will also include a form to fill out. You will be asked whether you or someone else was the driver.

Designating someone else as the guilty party may backfire, however. More often than not, your infraction is caught on camera, showing who the speeding driver is.

You can pay the fine with the payment slip or, if you truly think you are falsely accused, you can appeal the decision and go to court.

But realistically speaking, the odds of winning are slim to none.

Wait, there’s more

For serious speeding offences in excess of 25 km/h, additional penalties will be imposed.

For instance, your driver’s license may be suspended for a period ranging from one to three months, depending on the speed and the location.

Additionally, If you exceed the speed limit by 25 km/h in built-up areas, 30 km/h on main roads, or by 35 km/h on the motorway, your offence will be recorded in the register of criminal convictions and will remain there, for all to see, for a certain period of time.

It would not look good if you are looking for a job or an apartment, as employers and landlords routinely ask to see a copy of your criminal record.

Also, if you cause an accident while speeding or if you drive drunk, penalties would be more significant.

In Switzerland, the maximum permitted alcohol level while driving is 0.5%/ This is in line with most European countries

What happens if you are a repeat offender?

You may lose your driving privileges.

In case of excessive speeding violations, your driver’s license will be taken away. You will also have to be assessed by a psychologist to see if you have any mental disorders that would permanently disqualify you from driving.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s roads are among the safest in the world 

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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.