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.

Road Taxes

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
  • For further information (in French): Click here

Motorway Tax

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 November 2009) and must be bought for the same price regardless of how long the vehicle will be in Switzerland (a day or a year).

Drink Driving

The limit in Switzerland is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. This has been in place since January 2005.

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.

Traffic Fines

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:

Further information