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Swiss Traffic Tickets

The Swiss tend to be an orderly and law-abiding people, but their respect for the law occasionally gives way to baser instincts on the highway. Tourists from places like Chicago, Rome, and Mexico City are even more likely to neglect legal niceties when forced to choose between obeying a speed limit and enjoying the sound of a car engine revving at 5,000 rpm in fifth gear.

Fortunately, the Swiss police are there to provide a reminder that Switzerland favors social responsibility over motorized self-expression. If you misbehave behind the wheel, there's a good chance that you'll get a traffic ticket.

What to do when you're caught

If a police officer pulls you over for a minor offense, you'll have two options:

  • Admit your guilt and pay the fine on the spot. This is not a bribe. All fines are recorded in the officer's ticket book, and you'll get a numbered receipt.
  • Deny your guilt and request a court date. If you choose this approach, you'll need to post bond, since you're a foreigner and the police don't want you skipping the country without paying up.

The good news is that, if you pay the fine, the police won't record your name and your offense won't make its way into a database of traffic criminals. Your insurance company will never know that you forgot to signal a turn, rolled through a stop sign, or went a few kilometers over the speed limit.

Bottom line: Drive carefully--but if you don't, try to keep your offenses small enough to avoid the need for a visit to a police station or a day in court.

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