Provisional driving licence could be valid from age 17

A driving instructor and a student driver during a driving lesson in Zurich Keystone

Young drivers may in future be able to get their provisional driving licenses a year earlier - from the age of 17. The procedure for learning to drive could also be improved and become cheaper, the Swiss authorities say. 

This content was published on April 28, 2017 - 16:17

The Federal Roads OfficeExternal link said on Friday that it had sent the proposals to change the current system out for consultation

CurrentlyExternal link learner drivers can apply for a provisional licence a month before turning 18. A first-aid course and a theory test (in some cantons this can be done in English) must also be done.

After passing the driving testExternal link, new drivers receive a three-year probationary driving licence, during which they have to take two compulsory drivers’ education courses. 

The proposed changes 

Under the new plansExternal link, those under 25 years old will only be allowed to do the practical side of the test if they have held a provisional driving licence for at least 12 months and have gained driving experience during this time. 

Three years driving probation will be continued but new drivers will only have to attend one extra driving education course, during the first six months of the probation time. The director of the Roads Office, Jürg Röthlisberger, said at a media conference in Bern that this was in reaction to criticism that the second course was too expensive, and involved a lot of red tape. 

The two-phase driving licence training, introduced in 2005, has “not yet had the desired effect” on the stated goal of reducing accidents by young drivers. “Three quarters of those seriously injured and 87% of those killed in road accidents are 18-24 years old,” Röthlisberger said. 

The idea of the changes was to ensure that new drivers were more skilled and had more experience when they first ventured out into traffic on their own, the Federal Roads Office said. 


However, the Swiss Association of Driving Instructors saidExternal link that young people were not mature enough to receive the provisional licence at age 17. It was also against the removal of the second driving education day after the test had been passed.

The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention saidExternal link that it did not necessarily expect more accidents among 17-year-old learner drivers. But that it was worried about 40,000 more young people being on the road because of training starting earlier. It is calling for learner drivers to have completed at least 3,000 kilometres of driving before their test, which is around 100 hours of driving practice.

The new proposal has now entered consultation, during which cantons, political parties and other organisations can give their views on it. This will last until October 26, 2017. Parts of the plan – those easiest to implement - could enter in force by mid 2019, with the rest following by the beginning of 2020.

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