The basic rules for driving in Switzerland
They key traffic regulations are listed below. Pay particular attention to your speed. Fines are impressive.
- You need to drive on the right lane.
- You need to have a motorway vignette on your car.
- The headlights must be switched on during the day as well.
- Maximum speeds: motorways 120 km/h, highways 100 km/h, other roads outside built-up areas 80 km/h, towns 50 km/h. Exceptions may apply at any time. Cars with a trailer may not exceed 100 km/h on any road.
- Driving in the mountains requires special skills.
- Traffic from the right (including cyclists) has priority.
- Traffic on rotary intersections has priority, unless the signs indicate otherwise.
- Police cars, ambulances and fire trucks always have priority. This goes for trams as well.
- You're required to stop for pedestrians who want to use a zebra crossing. Swiss drivers don't take this rule lightly and do indeed stop even if pedestrians are only approaching a crossing. As a tourist you are expected to do the same, and pedestrians expect to get right of way. Trams don't need to stop for pedestrians.
- If a driving lane is closed, you have to allow drivers from this closed lane to merge into your lane.
- In case of accidents, quick access for emergency services is required. In slow traffic, drivers have to create a so-called "Rettungsgasse". This means that one row of cars is being formed on the very left side of the road and or more rows on the right side, thus creating an improvised lane in between. You can be fined if you don't make enough space for emergency services.
- Seat belts are obligatory for all passengers. Children under 12 years old need a special seat if they're under 150 cm tall. The seats must be appropriate for their age and weight, and carry an official ECE security label.
- Driving is not allowed from a blood alcohol level of 0.25 mg/l. An absolute alcohol prohibition applies to professional drivers and new drivers. It is highly recommended to not drink at all when you plan to drive.
- You're advised to turn off the engine when you need to wait for traffic lights, railroad crossings, etc. Sometimes this is obligatory.
- Hands-free calling is allowed, but it is strongly advised against. Handheld calling will be heavily fined.
- In general snow tires or snow chains are not obligatory. Snow tires are highly recommended in winter though. It is not allowed to obstruct traffic because you failed to prepare your vehicle for the local weather conditions. Snow chains may be required on smaller roads in winter.
- A warning triangle in each car is obligatory. A first aid kit, a fire extinguisher and safety vests are recommended.
- You don't have to possess a parking disc, but we do recommend to have one.
Traffic fines in Switzerland are generally heavy. For example, driving 61 km/h instead of 50 km/h in a town costs CHF 250. You'd best stick to the rules and avoid fines.