Last week the Swiss parliament voted on a proposal to allow cars to overtake not just on the left, but also the right. Proponents claimed that such a radical measure would speed up the flow of traffic on the nation’s busy motorways. Anyone who has driven between Geneva and Vevey will recall, however, that the autoroute bizarrely has junctions that flow into the fast lane.
The new law would mean that at one of these junctions, drivers joining the autoroute could legally – and dangerously – cut across three lanes of traffic, then speed through any gap in the slow lane to overtake cars on the outside causing chaos and confusion. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the motion was convincingly defeated.
That it was proposed and actually reached the point of a parliamentary vote is telling about Switzerland’s attitude towards driving. The country is well run and organised in almost every other respect. Indeed, it has dozens of regulations that often bemuse foreigners including: prohibiting the flushing toilets after 22h00 or mowing the lawn on Sundays. Yet it does not take long to see what the laws aim to do, notably to institutionalize consideration for others.
The proposed amendment to traffic law was the antithesis of encouraging consideration for others. Many foreigners are surprised by the poor standard of driving in Switzerland. Drivers happily block road junctions, tailgate, rarely allow people to change lane, and never merge from two lanes into a single lane in a turn-and-turn-about manner (or as the Belgians eloquently put it “do a zipper”). Such provocative practices seem at odds with the orderliness of everything else in this country.
Parking spaces are menacingly positioned next to pedestrian crossings and the tallest, bushiest, and most obscuring plants or trees possible are positioned in the centre of roundabouts making entry into them something akin to Russian roulette. And then there’s the big one. Signalling. If drivers actually indicated their intentions rather than causing other drivers to dither in anticipation, it would be a fair wager that traffic flows would become positively liquid.
If you’ve got thoughts and ideas on how traffic management could be improved, then please tell us, preferably by text when driving the kids to school.