Cars and Driving in Sweden

vintage car

A tricked-out Mustang is unusual on Swedish city streets but I came across this one. Photo by K.Lund

 

I’ve been avoiding thinking about getting my Swedish driver’s license. I was able to use my US license the first year but now I have rolled over into my second year. I have driven a lot over the years of first visiting and then moving to Sweden but it has always been summer driving and not in Stockholm (though I have driven long distances).

The problem is that you must take all the Swedish driving tests including one on a special icy track so you can demonstrate you know how to drive in the winter. I haven’t driven in winter for over 20 years.

A Few Things About Driving in Sweden…
This information was provided by Global Expat Partners.

  • Buses have the right of way in Sweden (on 30 and 50 km/hr roads). You must slow down or stop to yield to a bus pulling out.
  • From what I’ve observed, there aren’t that many stop signs, at least in Uppsala or Stockholm. At intersections, you must give way to traffic from the right. This means that when you approach an intersection you must really watch out for cars approaching from the three other directions.
  • Sweden’s drinking and driving laws are strict with little tolerance. Driving with a blood alcohol limit over 0.02% can mean a prison sentence.
  • It is against the law to sit in your car with the engine running for more than one minute in Swedish for environmental reasons.
  • It is mandatory to stop for pedestrians at pedestrian crossings. Supposedly there is a large fine for not stopping but I have seen this happen frequently in Stockholm. And, as I’ve mentioned before, the cyclists don’t yield to a pedestrian in the crosswalk at all so you really have to be careful as a pedestrian.
  • In Sweden you must drive with headlights on – 24hours a day.
  • Sweden is 54 per cent forest, so there are a lot of animal warning signs posted. Watch out for moose trying to cross the road!
  • Winter tires are compulsory after December 1st or as soon as winter conditions exist. There are two types of winter tires, those with studs and those without). Studded winter tires have to be removed by April 30th and are forbidden on certain inner city streets. Most people I know change the tires themselves which I think is pretty impressive.
  • The winter weather can be extreme so all drivers should carry a snow shovel, sand and ice scrapers. It is also recommended to carry lock oil to unfreeze the locks, as well as blankets and extra winter clothing in case you get stuck.

Annual Car Check
If you own a car in Stockholm, you may have to take the car for a mandatory check. All cars need to have the warning security triangle visible and always in the car. New cars and light commercial vehicles should be taken for their first periodic inspection when they are three years old, and for the second time when they are five years old. Thereafter, they are inspected once every year.

Traffic Cameras
Much speed control is done by traffic cameras. It’s good to know where they are. There are warning signs and then the telltale pillar holding the camera just a little further on. This website: www.trafiken.nu has traffic information( in Swedish) as well images from its traffic webcams.

Stockholm Toll
Swedish registered cars driving in or out of Stockholm city center are subject to a congestion charge. License plates are automatically read as your vehicle passes through the toll. A monthly invoice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. Charges are made between 6:30 am – 18.29 pm and the cost varies between 10-20 kr depending on the time of day. The maximum charge for a single day is capped at 60 SEK. There is no charge on weekends, public holidays, the day before a public holiday, or for the entire month of July.

Vintage American Cars and “Raggare”
Raggare is translated by Google Translator  to mean “Greasers.” According to Wikipedia

 While the raggare movement has its roots in late 1950s youth counterculture, today it is associated mainly with middle aged men who enjoy meeting and showing off their retro American cars. However, the subculture retains its rural and small town roots as well as its blue collar and low brow feel. The original phenomenon unleashed moral panic but the contemporary raggare subculture tends to be met with amusement or mild disapproval by mainstream society. A typical contemporary raggare might be a 45-year old skilled blue collar worker living in a small town, who spends part of his spare time fine tuning his 1960s Pontiac and his vacation meeting other raggare, with wife and children sometimes tagging along.

fake american police car

Swedish police cars look completely different from this one painted to look like a New York police car–or at least one on TV. It seems extra-incongruous to me that it says the emergency number is 911. In Sweden, it’s 112. Photo by K. Lund.

 

While walking in Sunnersta one day, I saw an unusual car. I don’t know whether a person who makes their car look like a TV version of a New York police car (see above) is a real raggare (since they are obviously trying for a modern–if not a fantasy modern) look with this car.

I wonder if somewhere in New York someone has made their car look a Swedish police car? Probably not.

fake  american police car

Photo by K. Lund

  • Tomas

    The Annual Car Check is for the complete country of Sweden and not only for the city ore county of Stockholm which means all citizens owning a car in Sweden are mandatory to have it checked up at a civil approved (bilprovningen) every year if not other of teach occasions which you mentioned in your posted is the case (such as having a new car ore driving a car which is of vintage quality and thereby not regulated by standard laws of regular check ups)

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks for clarifying all that. :)

  • Tomas

    PS you might want to mention something of the tradition of taking away all that reminds you of Christmas on the 13 of January (tjugondagknut) which is the tradition in Sweden the same way as almost everyone start celebrating Christmas and punting up Christmas decorations at the same date at the first of advent.

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Good idea, Tomas. I have also met many people who wait till the day before Christmas Eve to put up their tree. Then they keep it up till January 13th. Thanks for reading!

  • Monica-USA

    Interesting story Kristin, I would be more impressed with the muscle car if it truly was a vintage Mustang! :o ) I find the ideas of minimal stop signs very interesting. It wouldn’t work very well over here too many idiots on the road. :o ) Even though it is an inconvenience and a small expense I find the idea of yearly car checks very important. In Washington State we only have them mandatory in King County because that is where the heaviest city traffic is but outside of that County it isn’t required. I think it is also a great idea of learning how to properly drive in the bad weather conditions. We don’t get that kind of training here, the only thing I know about snow and ice driving is what I learned from my mom and my years of driving in it. Good luck I hope you will get your Swedish driving license and hopefully own a car if you can. :o )

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Good stuff, Monica. Thanks for reading! :)

  • S. Terzian-Feliz

    The Swedish car laws appear eminently reasonable to me,. I would be utterly helpless when it snowed, and think you are brave beyond description and belief.

  • Christie

    I grew up driving on snow, in Maine…. In fact I took my Drivers test during a snow storm that had closed the schools. I thot that was very harsh – no, not because of the snowstorm! I was fine and passed, but since school was closed, there was no “triumphant return” mid-day to the accolades of classmates. By the time we got back to school, it was all very anti-climatic. I enjoyed your driving post! TY for it. You must continue with a personal blog! Please!

    • http://blogs.sweden.se/work/ Kristin Lund

      Thanks, Christie. I, too, took my drivers license in the snow. I forgot that! That was a long time ago and not in Sweden. Thanks for reading!

  • Jessie

    Hahaha, Coming from New York I can tell you that I have yet to seen a car transformed into a Swedish police car, but it would be fun to see even if just so this one can have its significant other? :) On a serious note please do let us know when the last blog will be , I will really miss constantly checking this website for your stories :( Kristin if you know of any expat/American clubs/org in Stockholm/ Uppsala area could you let me know? Many thanks for all you do. Jessie

  • Dan

    From what I have read, most people in Sweden do not even need a car since public transportation is so readily available. Would you agree with this? Also if you don’t mind, a quick unrealted question, did you locate your job in Sweden on the Eures website and was moving there worth it? From what I have read on your blog it sounds like it was indeed. Thanks!

    • http://nittonniotre.blogg.se/ Emmie KaosFlicka NittonNioTre

      About not needing cars, that is so not true. I live in the swedish countryside with 20 minutes to the nearest town, and an hour to several cities. Some of my friends live about 15 minutes, or longer (in car), straight out in the woods, and there are no public transportation where there are only a few houses. We need cars.. Some times you can have like 10 minutes in car to your nearest neighbor, picture that with no car…

      • Sweepy6667890

        Good point about cars. I was thinking of people living in more Urban environments, neglecting those who live in the countryside.