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.
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!
“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.