Vignette (road tax)
Vignette is a form of road pricing imposed on vehicles, usually in addition to the compulsory road tax, based on a period of time instead of the usual road toll method based on distance traveled, and is currently used in several non-English speaking European countries. The term is of French origin, and is now used throughout Central Europe.
Vignettes are used in Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland, while other types of road toll are being imposed on drivers in several other European countries. The small, colored toll-sticker is to be affixed on a vehicle, often personal of up to 3.5 metric tons maximum permissible gross weight (passenger car, motorcycle, travel trailer), using motorways and expressways, which indicates that the respective road tax has been paid. Prices for a regular annual vignette for passenger cars range from €30 to €150, depending on each country where they are being sold. They can usually be obtained at border crossings, gas stations and other labeled points. Improperly used or lost vignettes are usually not refunded.
Vignettes are usually constructed in such a way that detaching and reattaching them is impossible without destruction, ensuring that they cannot be used on more than one vehicle. Road traffic is often monitored by roadside cameras, and vignettes are verified by state officials, such as border guard and national police. Hefty cash fines are often charged to travelers using public roads without a valid and properly affixed vignette. Additional tolls are usually levied for passing through certain motorway tunnels and bridges.
Vignette obligation by country
As of 1997, vignettes are required for all vehicles of up to 3.5 tons, driving on motorways and expressways (prefixed with letters A and S) under federal administration. Vignettes are overseen by the police and toll-sheriff employees of the federal motorway administration. A €240 fine with an additional obligatory payment of a substitute toll are charged to travelers without a valid vignette, and unpaid fines lead to penalties between €300 and €3,000. Furthermore, the vehicle may be confiscated from foreigners to guarantee payment of the penalty.
Additional tolls are charged for certain motorway sections where tollgates and video tolling systems are installed. Several sections require drivers to buy electronic toll cards, while the A-14 section allows travelers to buy a substitute one-day Corridor-Vignette. Vignettes for vehicles of over 3.5 tons were replaced with electronic distance-based highway-toll GO-Boxes on January 1, 2004.
Vignettes are required for all (including animal-powered) vehicles driving on all public roads, with the exception of streets in cities, towns and villages. Vignettes are usually valid from the time they are purchased, while some types can be marked to start from a future date. They can be obtained in Bulgaria at most gas stations, at border crossings, or online using a credit card. Cash fines of €60 or more are charged to drivers without a valid vignette.
Vignettes are required for the use of motorways and expressways by all vehicles of up to 3.5 tons. Cash fines for not displaying a valid vignette affixed on a car's windshield range from €80 to €200. Vignettes for heavier vehicles were replaced with electronic toll collection in 2007.
The French vignette-based vehicle tax was introduced in 1956 to fund a minimum income scheme for citizens of age 65 and above. They were available in tabacs, and all vehicle owners were required to buy one at the end of each year. The price depended on the engine's horsepower, and in which department the car was registered. The vignette system soon led to controversy, leading to the tax not being ring-fenced for the elderly any longer.
Vignettes were abolished for motorcycles in June 1981, and for other vehicles in 2001. An electronic toll is currently charged for all travelers using motorways and expressways, while additional charges have to be paid for passing through certain tunnels and bridges.
Motorways and expressways are a toll-free road network for all lighter vehicles. The Eurovignette system for trucks was abolished in August 2003, after which a distance-based toll charge for vehicles of over 12 tons was established by the Toll Collect company on January 1, 2005.
As of March 1, 2007, all drivers are required to purchase an emission sticker when passing through the "environment zones" in several cities and municipalities. Certain "green zones" have completely disallowed entrance to vehicles with higher particle emissions ("yellow" and "red" groups). Travelers passing through these areas without the sticker are charged with a €40 fine and one point in the Traffic Offences Register.
Vignettes are required for all travelers using motorways and expressways. Physical toll stickers were replaced with electronic vignettes and video tolling on January 1, 2008, the only physical item the purchaser receives is a control coupon. Motorway usage entitlement is verified by roadside cameras based on license plate numbers, and drivers of vehicles up to 3.5 tons without a valid vignette are charged with cash fines between €50 and €200.
Vignettes are obligatory for personal motor vehicles registered abroad, driving on public roads, and are available for purchase at border customs posts and offices. Foreign drivers without a valid vignette are charged with cash fines between €125 and €375. Heavier vehicles use existing tax rates, with commercial vehicle drivers paying a single-entry tax and a distance-based charge.
With the exception of motorcycles, vignettes are required for all vehicles driving on all national roads and motorways. They can be obtained at most gas stations, border crossings, or online using a credit card. Drivers without a valid vignette are fined with €100 or more. The fines are dispensed by automatic systems that scan the numberplate of the car when it exits a city.
Vignettes are obligatory for all vehicles of up to 3.5 tons, driving on Slovak motorways. Drivers without a valid vignette are charged with cash fines between €100 and €500. Vignettes for heavier vehicles were replaced with distance-based electronic toll collection in 2010.
Vignettes are required for all vehicles of up to 3.5 tons, driving on Slovenian motorways as of July 1, 2008. Drivers without a valid vignette are charged with cash fines between €300 and €800. Heavier vehicles use existing tollgates.
All travelers using motorways and expressways are required to purchase an annual vignette. Vignettes can be obtained in and outside of Switzerland in bordering countries at gas stations and labeled points. Use of motorway networks without a valid vignette is an offense against the Public Highways Act, and is punishable with cash fines of €165 or more, in addition to the obligatory purchase of an annual vignette. Heavier vehicles use a distance-based tax rate on all types of roads.
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