If you are planning to drive through Switzerland, plan your trip carefully well in advance, and make sure you study the road map before travelling. Hardly any of the roads are in straight lines, and therefore driving may be difficult at times. Driving in the Alps can be quite challenging, so make sure you keep your eyes on the road while going through these beautiful sceneries and landscapes!
Overall, road conditions are excellent, and Switzerland is amongst the countries with the least accidents.
You must pay an annual tax for using motorways (also called National Routes) in Switzerland, even if you only plan to use the motorway for a short, one-time drive. A valid (for the current year) vehicle sticker, also known as Vignette or Autobahnvignette, must be clearly posted on the windshield of all vehicles traveling on motorways in Switzerland (having one in the car is not enough). The motorway tax sticker costs CHF 40, and is good for one year with no refunds. If you do not display a Vignette, you may be fined. If you are using a car rental, make sure you have a valid Vignette on your windshield. Note that in most cases, cars rented in other neighboring countries will not have a Vignette! If you do not have one, you must stay on secondary and residential roads.
You do not need an international driver's license while driving in Switzerland, but the information on your home license must be in one of the official languages: French, German, Italian or English. If your home driver's license does not have the information in one of these languages, you will have to carry an international license. If you can't obtain one in your country, a certified translation in one of the official languages will be accepted.
Always have your driver’s license and vehicle registration with you while driving in Switzerland. Carrying your certificate of motor insurance is also mandatory. Carrying your passport is recommended, but not mandatory. If you are using a rental car, you must carry a letter of consent from the registered owner giving you permission to drive the car.
The minimum age requirement for driving in Switzerland is 18 years. However, many rental car companies will only allow you to rent a car if you are over 23 or in some cases 25 years of age.
Seatbelts are mandatory for passengers in the front and in the back at all times.
There's no minimum age or height for a child to ride in the front seat. As of April 2010, Children aged up to 13 or under 150cm have to ride in a children's retaining device. Car seats or Boosters must comply with ECE-convention Nr. 44 - The first 2 digits of the verification code on the ECE-label must be 03 or 04. This regulation makes Switzerland's policy on the subject one of the strictest in Europe and the world.
The amount of alcohol allowed in the blood was lowered in 2005 to 0.5mg/ml. Random testing is common, and fines are steep. As a passenger with a valid driver's license, you are equally responsible, and get fined too, even if you did not consume any alcohol.
Drunk drivers will be fined, and drivers with levels between 0.5 and 0.79 mg/ml alcohol will either receive an official warning or will have their driver's license taken for at least a month (depending on their previous driving history). With over 0.8mg/ml you will automatically have your license taken for at least three months.
The speed limit differs in different areas:
Speed limits are enforces by many automatic cameras along the roadsides as well as frequent speed traps.
Uniformed police officers are authorized to collect fines on the spot. However, make sure you obtain a receipt from the police officer who collected the fine.
The use of radar detectors is forbidden.
The use of cellphones is only allowed with a hands-free device. Texting is not allowed. Fines are steep.
On secondary roads, traffic coming from the right has right of way, unless a priority sign says otherwise. In roundabouts, cars coming from the left (already in the roundabout) has right of way.
Traffic going uphill has priority over traffic on its way down.
If you notice a blue post while driving, it means that there is an intersection coming up along with a priority road.
Trams and buses have priorities while leaving their respective stops. In general, Public transportation (post buses, city buses, trams, trains, ambulances, police and fire engines) has right of way.
A warning triangle is compulsory
Visibility vests (Reflective jacket/waistcoat) are not compulsory, but are recommended. So are replacement bulb kit, fire extinguisher and a first aid kit are advised but not compulsory. It is not necessary to carry a spare pair of spectacles in the car, but it is recommended to do so if you wear one daily.
You must use headlights in tunnels day and night. It's not obligatory to drive with lights during daytime, but it is recommended. Keep headlights dipped during daylight hours.
Horns should not be used except for cases of extreme danger. You must flash your headlights in all other cases.
With these road rules in mind, you can enjoy the beautiful mountain side without a care in the world. The breathtaking landscape will be worth the care you take to drive your car in Switzerland safely.