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Traffic rules abroad: What fines could you find yourself facing?

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Mr. and Ms. Swiss have barely crossed the Swiss border. Pleased to be free from Swiss traffic regulations, they press down on the gas pedal. But is it really appropriate to see the roads of other European countries as Wild West territory? The answer is a loud and clear "no."

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    Cyril Senn

    Cyril Senn is a legal expert with AXA-ARAG with a keen interest in everything to do with criminal and traffic law. He explains changes in traffic law and supplies facts and tips on prevention in road traffic.

Strict laws in other countries

Road traffic laws in other European countries are sometimes even stricter than those in Switzerland. Take Italy for example: Driving with 1.5‰ alcohol in your blood can result in your car being subject to a forced auction. Transgressions abroad can also have consequences in Switzerland, as our laws aim  to prevent foreign driving bans from having no effect.

Fines from abroad

The Road Traffic Act states that you will generally lose your driver's license if a driving ban is issued abroad (see Art. 16cbis Road Traffic Act (SVG)). Moreover, communication between nations now functions without problems thanks to state treaties and multinational agreements: Traffic fines may be sent directly to Swiss citizens (Information from fedpolArt. 30 IRSV).

Know the traffic regulations

Essentials: Find out about the traffic regulations in your travel destination. It goes without saying that you shouldn't be driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, wherever you are. Here's a list of the most frequent cases  that our customers regularly face when abroad.

Austria

Find out about the motorway tolls in Austria. These can be paid digitally on the internet (website ASFINAG). If you drive without a sticker, you'll first receive a demand for EUR 120; non-payment attracts a fine of between EUR 300 and 3,000. Purchase of a sticker is automatically checked digitally using cameras and your license plate.

Croatia

Always pay parking fees and keep the receipts. Otherwise, you may receive post from Croatian or Austrian law firms or collection agencies. Claims generally become time-barred within five years.

France

Keep to the maximum speed limit. Fines are high and, if you exceed the speed limit by 40 kph or more on the motorway, the police are authorized to seize your driver's license on the spot. It is then forwarded to the Swiss authorities. Legal proceedings follow in Switzerland.

Germany

Keep to the maximum speed limit in Germany. Driving without a speed limit does not apply everywhere on the motorway. Germany often conducts distance measurements. And: There are also penalty points for foreigners in Flensburg. 

Italy

Foreign vehicles can be seized on the spot if you can't pay a fine. Our advice: Stick to the regulations. Keep all payment receipts from motorway toll booths. Toll booths are often defective and it can happen that – even though you've paid – you receive post from collection agencies years later because claims from the motorway operators only become time-barred after 10 years.

And even though Italy is famed for its wine, you shouldn't be driving a car when inebriated. The consequences are a whole lot stricter than in Switzerland. Watch out for urban streets on which only local residents and public transportation are permitted to drive. Travelers often overlook the relevant traffic sign and are subject to a heavy fine.

United Kingdom

In London, there is a Low Emission Zone for which there is a usage charge for certain diesel vehicles, in particular older motor homes . Failure to pay this charge results in a fine of between GBP 500 and 1,000. Check the internet to find out if you have to pay for your vacation vehicle.

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