Caught Speeding in Switzerland, Cameras Give Speeding Tickets Automatically

speeding in switzerland

Caught Speeding in Switzerland

I was warned. I thought I was being careful, but I got caught speeding in Switzerland. Did you ever get a speeding ticket in Switzerland? This is my first speeding ticket in Europe and it was for going 13kmh over the limit (~8 miles per hour). They allow a “tolerance” of 5 km/h. The penalty for going 8kmh (13 less the 5 tolerance) is 100 Euros. That's ~$110 USD for ~5 mph over the limit on top of the CHF 35 admin fee from Europcar. That seems expensive but it's nothing compared to this guy who got a 200,000 Euro penalty for speeding in his Ferrari. This driver who faced a whopping penalty of almost 1,000,000 francs (~$1 million USD)!

Speeding Tickets from Tunnel Speed Cameras

On my first visit to Switzerland, I was warned that they are very strict with speeding laws. I didn't know they automated the whole thing! While I usually try to follow the posted speed limits, occasionally I end up going faster than I expected. On the way to Zurich, we went through more tunnels than I can count. In one tunnel, a bright flash went off and I thought “shit, what was that? Was that a warning or did I just get a ticket”. We kept going and I made extra sure to stay under the limit. No more bright flashes of light after that. Seems there are so many tunnels with cameras that they don't need to put cops on the road since eventually the cameras will get you.

Tip: Be extra careful when approaching tunnels but really just stay under the limit all the time. You're on vacation!

Getting the Penalty

A few weeks after I returned from a trip to Switzerland and Poland, I got an email from Europcar with the letter below, along with a “administration fee” of CHF 35.00 for them sending me the fine. I used google translate to get the idea that it was a speeding ticket. That bright flash wasn't just a warning!

One reader pointed out in the comments that the penalty changed from CHF 100 to EUR 100 when they sent me the translated English version. I didn't notice that but I did send them an email to ask what happened.

Speeding Ticket Switzerland

Since I couldn't translate the document in full, I wanted to contact the source to find out exactly what this about but I could not find any contact details. I don't pay any old bill that comes in the mail without knowing for sure I have to pay it. With some digging online, I was able to get in touch with the city to see if they could send me the document in English. Without any delays, I had the following complaint in English sitting in my inbox. Now that's Swiss timing!

Speeding Ticket Switzerland English

“We cannot send any evidence.” Really?

I wanted to see some proof that it was really me and not some mix up. In the US, you would generally get a ticket in your hand directly from the cop. We do have speed cameras as well but, fortunately, I have never received a surprise ticket in the mail. I requested some evidence to from the rep who sent me the ticket. They said the could not send me the photo but did say that there was a man with glasses and beard and a lady in the passenger seat. Sounds right but am I the only man with glasses and a beard as well as a lady in the car?

After insisting to see some real evidence, they responded that “after consulting with the chief and prosecutor, they cannot send any evidence and if I wanted it I would have to pursue it in court (with additional costs)”. Wow, did the chief and prosecutor need to get involved to answer that question? So I have to go to court and pay just to get some proof that the ticket was sent to the right person? I have never been to Switzerland nor had a speeding ticket in Europe. According to quite a few sources online, this experience was quite common.

They finally caved after I asked if I really had to go to court and pay just to get proof. The photo arrived in my email. Yes…it was me. It's convenient to just send penalties and demands for payment without any evidence but I don't think it's right. I was a visitor and I need to obey their laws. Now, I had to pay the fine. My foot is not lead, but lesson learned.

Paying the Penalty (or not)

They give you a simple choice: pay the penalty within 30 days or they will pursue you in court and charge you additional fees. In some forums, some people were considering not paying and just not visiting Switzerland again. That might work but it's not worth the risk for me to create future problems if visiting another country in Europe, for example.  Anyway, I was working towards a credit card bonus and needed the spend anyway so I just paid with my credit card.

Have you ever had a speeding ticket in Switzerland or Europe?

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Comments

  1. I’ve had several. Most are assessed through the rental car company. One time I had one for significantly excessive speed in a certain country that has speed limits. I made my case and asked for evidence and never heard back. I hope they don’t hold me at the border next time I visit.

  2. Hey,
    They probably weren’t gonna send you proof as you were abroad. I live in Switzerland and can get the evidence easily by requesting it against a fee. So be sure it’s not you if you request it.
    On top of the 5km/h deducted, there are another 6km/h deducted that you don’t see which is by law, so you were driving even faster than that.
    Not paying it is ok but if you are on a flight that is diverted to Switzerland 1 day, you would be in trouble. On top of that, unpaid fines are converted in days in jail (probably 1 day for 100 francs) and this would be visible to all the Schengen coutries (visas to all of the European Union) so be careful with that.

    • Good to know! I do go to Europe fairly frequently and I’m sure they know most people will not bother to fight a fine of ~$100 from another continent.

  3. Welcome to Europe. In Holland there are speed cameras on almost half the main highways. I made a similar mistake and didn’t realize they have such a low tolerance for error here (3-5km) so after the first month driving here I got a ticket almost every day for the next month

    Also they have smart speed cameras which take a pic then a few miles later take another one, they then average the speed to determine if you get a ticket. So it’s impossible to cheat (oh I see a camera let me slow down).

    Either way, I think the government depends a lot on the fines revenue so I only expect it to get worse.

  4. Hello!

    Won the UA Lounge passes from You some 2 years ago – Gee, time flies!

    The experience you had is not unique nor infrequent in Europe. All countries are bankrupt “over there” so every one of them have “fully” implemented this lucrative source of additional revenues. That’s not to say You’ll necessarily bump into one throughout your stays!

    Thoroughly familiar with Germany/Austria/Italy (main residence on the US East Coast now but Mom’s in Germany and a vacation home in Northern Italy), be very afraid of speed limits on Autobahns – especially construction zones – Germany is supposedly the land of no speed limits – NOT! There are stretches where you can really put the pedal to the metal (Nuremberg to Munich – 160Km/100 mile stretch with a big “slow zone” right in the middle of that over about 15Km/10 miles – for “noise abatement” (Greding) that MUST be taken seriously! Driving Leipzig southbound to Nuremberg beware of the 80Km/h (50 mph) speed limit at the Autobahn intersection “Hermsdorf” – it was a notorious checkpoint in the GDR era and the money is still made today – via fully automated radar/camera in the median – You’ll only notice the red “flash” as you whisk by.

    In Germany, if you’re more than 51Km over the posted limit OUTSIDE URBAN ZONES your drivers’ license is suspended for a month or three (if You’ve had an offense over the preceding two years) and expect a “benign” penalty around EUR 400 (“benign” bc other Euro countries would charge significantly more for the same offense). Very easy to do as you slow into a construction zone from 100+ mph cruises (80Km/h posted limit, regular Autobahn “recommended” cruise speed is 130Km/h/85 mph). Really hurts if You’re a professional driver.

    Austria is tougher than Germany, notably – expect inconspicuous grey radar camera houses in main inner town/city thoroughfares and at town entrances (close to the town signs) for maximum revenue. Has nothing whatsoever to do about “safety”.

    Speed limits in Italy are 140Km/h / not quite 90 mph on the Autostrade (and everybody seems to go faster), rumors have it that “they” time you between when you take your toll ticket at the highway entrance to the time you insert it into the slot upon exiting – you might consider a “break” in one of the “Autogrills” along the way… And know that tolls CANNOT be paid in cash any more!

    The biggest no-no: DUI. Please don’t. Foreigner? Don’t speak the language? Your vehicle could be impounded. Make sure you have a copy of the green proof-of-insurance card in the car, it’s uniform and valid throughout the EU and associated countries, but will save you half a day of headache in the unlikely event of a collision mishap.

    Rental cars: when the rental agencies get the speeding bill, some of them don’t merely forward the courtesy, they’ll back-bill you and add “service charges” – happened with AVIS, Germany. In Germany, you still have the walk-in option to pay cash without being considered a criminal (for that reason?), expect to be asked to leave behind a refundable EUR 250 security deposit at checkout…

    At the very least, consult with AAA or your local auto club outlet preferably in person before travel. In Germany there are plenty of competent English speaking personnell at the German Motor Club (ADAC) to answer questions and draw attention to potential pitfalls. Websites are: adac.de (Germany). Italy’s is aci.it, Austria’s is oeamtc.at, Switzerland’s is tcs.ch

    Fixed radar locations are mostly mapped in specialized GPS map programs for smartphones nowadays (not car-onboard GPSs though). I’d recommend local low-cost auto magazines if You even have a semblance of knowledge of the language, young kids will always get a kick out of helping you translate – people are more “Car people” than in the US nowadays). More insidious (in Germany) are the (mobile) radar camera vehicles, frequently Volkswagen Passat or Ford Mondeo wagons (UK-English: estates), which typically wait for the unsuspecting somewhere out in the boonies as long as there’s a speed limit sign nearby (be there a reason – or not). Hard limits in Germany: urban 50Km/h / 30mph or as posted, many 30Km/h / 20mph zones nowadays, non-Autobahn suburban/country 100Km/h / 60 mph, Autobahn “recommended” 130Km/h unless posted differently. And – yes, states ruled by the SPD (Socialist Party of Germany) usually cap Autobahn speeds at 120Km/h / 75 mph. (Niedersachsen/Hannover!) Now You know!

    Finally – it goes without saying: check out Your rental at check-out for damage (interior cigarette butt holes!) thoroughly. Customer Service in Germany is a mere shadow of the one you know from the US. Customer service in Italy – well – fuhggeddaboudit!

    And now: Viel Spass beim Fahren (have fun driving)!

    • Thanks for all the details! I have drive through east Germany and Poland without issues, fortunately. I actually got this penalty through Europcar with an additional fee of CHF 35 which I have to add to the post. All the more reason to take trains.

      A couple years ago I had a little bit of hassle after I returned that car and the guy said there was a small ding on the left side. I believe that the credit card insurance would have covered it but they never followed up about that.

  5. Hi, I am sorry that this happened to you! I couldn’t help but notice that the amount to be paid in the first letter is 100 CHF (around 92 EUR), which then “magically” becomes 100 EUR in the second letter. It’s only 8 EUR more, but if you paid 100 EUR you probably overpaid! Congratulations on your blog! All the best, Luke

    • Thanks for pointing that out – I didn’t see the sneaky changing of the currency. I asked them why it increased. Maybe it’s a translation fee.

    • I double checked and they actually charged me 100 CHF on my credit card. Interestingly when I asked them about it, they said that 100 CHF is the same as 100 EUR. (scratching head…really?)

  6. I also got a speeding ticket in Switzerland (first time getting one in Europe) and was made to pay it in person on the spot! I was warned by friends of the Swiss strictness but I was in a hurry to get to the Geneva Airport from Zurich. As I was driving, I saw the light flash (I think I was probably around 10km/hr or so over). About 2 or 3 km after I saw the flash, Swiss police had set up a checkpoint and all cars that had been speeding (checking license plates) were forced to pull over to a mobile police station. I was required to pay the fine on the spot – cash or credit card.

  7. Heh — I am an American who moved to Switzerland a year ago. Absolutely nothing in this story surprises me… (especially the part about them sending you an English version of the letter immediately; bureaucracy works surprisingly quickly here). Sorry you got the fine but welcome to the world of Swiss efficiency… and the last line of your post made me crack up… at least you’re working toward a good minimum spend! 🙂 Cheers from Zurich.

  8. Hi guys,

    I also got a ticket after visiting Swiss, It is in French, cant really understand what is the cause for the ticket, but the amount is 260 CHF,
    Can anyone post an Email address where I could try and ask for some clarification ?

    thanks

  9. i have just received a red light ticket today.
    in the letter, it ia specifically marked that “during police proceedings, individuals have no right to access officials files. the Zurich City Police Department therefore does not permit you to examine your case file (including any photographic material)”

    reality wonder how this can happen in a civilized country

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