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Driving For Members

What Swiss drivers should know if they commit driving offences abroad

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 31 Aug, 2022 Updated Wed 31 Aug 2022 14:00 CEST
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Mind where you park when abroad, or may receive a fine. Photo: Erik McLean, Pexels

The Swiss may be known for being sticklers for rules and regulations, but they don’t always obey them when driving abroad. But what happens if you get fined?

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One such example recently reported in the media occurred in Como, an Italian town near the Swiss border, whose mayor decided to crack down on numerous drivers from Ticino who don’t pay for their parking.

The town even has a tow truck dedicated to the removal of Swiss cars that park “wherever they like”, including in no-parking zones.

The mayor, Alessandro Rapinese, decided to get tough on Swiss law-breakers because the value of unpaid parking fines given to Ticino motorists amounts to over 300,000 euros a year.

Rapinese added that he is a frequent visitor to Ticino, where “I always look for a legal parking spot and pay for it. It’s only fair”.

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‘Subject to imprisonment’

If you think you can toss your foreign ticket away once you are safely back home in neutral Switzerland, and stay under the radar — figuratively speaking — you may be in for a rude awakening.

“Traffic fines issued abroad should always be paid, otherwise the issuing authority may take measures against the vehicle owner, even if they live in Switzerland", the Federal Office of Police (Fedpol) says on its website.

“Measures can include an entry in a search database, a ban on entering the country in future, or high reminder fees. If you return to the country concerned having failed to pay the fine, your car may be confiscated until the fine has been paid. You may even be subject to imprisonment for one or more days".

READ MORE: What you should know about driving in Switzerland — and abroad — this summer
 

The severity of measures for the non-payment of fines varies from country to country.

This is what they are in neighbour nations, the most common destinations of Swiss motorists:

France

An agreement between Bern and Paris on parking and speeding offences states that each country must help the other in enforcing fines.

"This means the Swiss authorities can enforce the payment of fines issued by the French authorities to Swiss motorists, and vice versa. Electronic data is exchanged between the two countries," Fedpol says.

Germany and Austria

Switzerland has also signed a police cooperation agreement with the two countries, which includes provisions on traffic legislation.

They all can — and do — exchange data on rule-breaking vehicles and vehicle owners.

Italy

Though there’s no agreement between Bern and Rome on mutual assistance in enforcing fines, you should nevertheless pay your traffic tickets on time, Fedpol says.

That’s because "Italian authorities impose very high reminder fees", and some cities, like Milan and Florence, they are outsourcing the collection of fines to private companies.

Liechtenstein

It is difficult to speed through this principality, given its size — 27 km long and 14 km wide.

But if you want to whiz through it faster than the 25 minutes it usually takes to cross the country, or if you want to park somewhere you shouldn’t, then you will have to pay the fine, as Liechtenstein also has an agreement with Switzerland,  which contains detailed provisions on enforcing traffic fines.

Beyond the immediate neighbours, Fedpol also advises against evading fines issued in the Netherlands, as the cantonal police services in Switzerland and the Dienst Wegverkeer (RDW) in Zoetermeer, Holland, exchange information about offending motorists.

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How can you pay for these foreign tickets?

If you are slapped with a fine directly, it is always best to pay on the spot, and get a receipt for your payment. This way you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

If you receive your fine by mail when you are already back in Switzerland, you can pay online or through a bank transfer, following directions on (or enclosed with) the ticket.

Beware of fake “fines”

 “If you doubt the authenticity of a fine or invoice from abroad, contact the foreign police or, depending on the sender, the municipality, the administration, or the private institution that sent the fine”, Fedpol notes.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/08/31 14:00

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