OBJECTIVE: To assess whether prevalence of active commuting and regular car trips to school varies across communities and language regions in Switzerland and to determine personal and environmental correlates. METHODS: During the school year 2004/2005, 1345 parental questionnaires (response rate 65%) of children attending 1st, 4th and 8th grades were completed, 1031 could be linked to a GIS environmental database. A German-speaking, a French-speaking and a bilingual study area were included. Usual mode of transportation and frequency of regular car trips to school were assessed. Associations with personal and environmental factors were evaluated with multivariate regression models. RESULTS: Seventy-eight percent of the children actively traveled to school. Twelve percent were regularly driven at least once a week by car. Major road crossings and distance were significantly related to usual mode of transportation, but not to regular car trips. Age, daycare attendance, parental safety concerns, number of cars in the household and belonging to French-speaking population were significantly associated with increased regular car trips. CONCLUSION: Objective predictors are main deciding factors for active commuting to school as main mode of transport whereas personal and lifestyle factors are important factors associated with frequency of car use. Not only objective but also differing cultural attitudes should be considered when promoting non-motorized travel.