Legal Driving in Geneva
Information on the taxes and drink driving (DUI) laws in Geneva and the cantons of Vaud, Neuchatel and Jura, as well as where to pay traffic fines...
Motor Vehicle Tax
Motor vehicles are subject to tax, which is handled by the cantons. Anyone wanting to put a vehicle on the road for the first time must notify the canton's Road Traffic Office (Service des Automobiles et de la Navigation) beforehand.
The road tax rate due depends on the cubic capacity of the engine and the weight unity of the car. When a car is registered at the cantonal Road Traffic Office the road tax bill is sent with the car registration papers.
A person may be refunded if they leave the country within the paid year.
A person with two cars who transfers the plates need only pay road tax once - on the car with the bigger engine.
Tax relief for clean cars
In 2002 the canton of Geneva set up a system of tax relief for any person buying a car that consumes less petrol and pollutes less.
From 1 January 2006 environmentally friendly cars are exempt from paying road tax during the first three years the car spends on the road.
To benefit from this tax relief, cars must:
- Respect the European EURO 5 standards. This environmental legislation applied to road transport imposes limitations on four types of pollutants: nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, unburnt hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.
- Carbon monoxide emissions must be less than 160 grams per kilometre and less than 130 grams per kilometre for diesel cars
- Production of particles must be less than 0.010 grams per kilometre
- Cars must have an etiquette energie category A. This means they must not give off more that 100 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometres
- Further information is available on the Canton Geneva website (in French)
From January 2020, the city of Geneva introduced a scheme to ban polluting vehicles driving through the centre.
All vehicle planning to drive through Geneva city centre must display a sticker that indicates its environmental performance and potential to pollute. Only vehicles displaying the Stick'AIR sticker will be permitted to travel within the designated zones between the hours of 06:00 and 22:00.
The Stick'AIR divides vehicles into six number, and colour categories, with grey being the least ecological and “green” being the most environmentally friendly.
The Geneva authority issues an alert when smog levels in the city are high. Cars with grey stickers are the first to be banned from entering the city centre. If smog conditions persist, restrictions will apply to the other more polluting categories.
Any vehicle and trailer up to 3.5 tonnes using the motorway must pay a motorway tax. To show that the tax has been paid the sticker (vignette) must be displayed in the windscreen.
The tax is valid for one year (1 January to 31 December) and can be bought at post offices, service stations, automobile associations, railway stations and border crossings.
Failure to display the vignette when driving on an motorway (autoroute) will result in a fine and the cost of the vignette.
The vignette costs CHF 40 (correct March 2021) and must be bought for the same price regardless of how long the vehicle will be in Switzerland (a day or a year).
In Switzerland, the maximum permitted alcohol level while driving is 0.5‰ (blood alcohol), equivalent to 0.25 mg/l (breath alcohol).
A person found guilty of being drunk while driving will be penalised with a severe fine or imprisonment and the possible confiscation of the licence. According to Swiss legislation if a passenger of a drunk driver has a driving licence, they are equally responsible.
Random checks are more frequent and police may breathalyse a driver even if there is no visible evidence that they are drunk.
The CH.ch website has more on drink driving limits and penalties
Traffic fines are given for, among other things, speeding, driving on the motorway without the vignette, going through a red light and bad parking.
Radar monitored speed traps are common and speeding tickets can cost anything from a few hundred to a few thousand Swiss Francs. Jail sentences are also possible in extreme cases.
Speeding fines will depend on the speed above the legal limit and where the offence took place: a driver travelling over the authorised speed limit by 15km/h in a town centre, 20km/h in a suburb or 25km/h on the motorway may have to appear in court and the fine may be as much as CHF 1,000. Driving licences may be suspended.
Non-resident drivers may have to pay on the spot fines for infringing some traffic regulations. Ensure an official receipt is issued by the officer collecting the fine.
A person caught committing a traffic offence may either pay on the spot or take the payment slip given by the traffic offices and pay at the Post Office within 10 days.
Traffic fines and tickets are issued by the Service des Contraventions:
- Service des Contraventions
At: Chemin de la Gravière 5, 1227 Carouge
Tel: 022 427 51 70
- Geneva Road Traffic Office
At: 86, rue du Veyrier, 1227 Carouge
Tel: +41 (0)22 388 30 30
Open: Monday to Friday 07:30-16:00
- Jura Road Traffic Office
- Neuchâtel Road Traffic Office
- Vaud Road Traffic Office