Warning system planned against 'ghost drivers'
Forewarned is forearmed in a country with no speed limits on motorways where errant drivers often race in the wrong direction. The government says it will finally fit an electronic alert system on danger stretches of the Autobahn.
"Driver alert!", start the warnings broadcast daily on radio stations across Germany as another intoxicated, suicidal or just confused motorist drives the wrong way.
Last year, 2,200 Geisterfahrer (ghost drivers) did this, causing road accidents in which 22 people died, according to the German Automobile Association (ADAC).
The Transport Ministry is now selecting an electronic system that will reactively warn drivers through visual and acoustic means of imminent threat, the Passauer Neue Press newspaper reported Monday.
Variants are currently being tested on a digital mock-up highway before the ministry announces its choice later in the year, a spokesman told the paper.
He did not specify the exact functions the system will perform, or its anticipated cost. But it will replace crude existing countermeasures, which are plain yellow signs telling errant drivers "Stop - Wrong".
Won't break the bank
Some motoring experts calculate that a basic system could be fitted at the worst black spots countrywide for only around €25 million. It would consist of electronic sensors on the camber that would activate flashing signs further up the highway when a ghost driver is detected.
Meanwhile, penalties for the offence depend on the specific German state and the involvement of other factors like intoxication, intent, excessive speeds and damage caused.
A straight case of unpremeditated, non-lethal ghost driving in Flensburg, for example, can result in a €200 fine, four points on your licence, and its suspension for several weeks.
The ADAC offers a few tips for drivers alerted to an imminent threat: Slow down but don't stop; keep to the outer (slow) lane; take the next exit or highway parking slip-road, and stay tuned to your radio for the 'all clear' announcement.
For those who might find themselves driving the wrong way, switch on headlights and hazard lights and pull over onto the emergency lane. Don't try to turn round.