Up until now German law has allowed for a €400 fine and a month-long driving ban for anyone who takes part in an illegal road race. But the new law sets out a maximum two-year-jail sentence for taking part in a race, and that's just if no one is injured.
If someone in seriously hurt or killed in the race the sentence rises to 10 years in jail.
The law also applies to people who aren't involved in a race but who speed in “a careless way that is against driving regulations.”
Several innocent pedestrians and drivers have been killed in illegal races on German streets in recent years. In March a Berlin court convicted two young men of murder when a 69-year-old man died after being struck by one of their vehicles during a race through the west end of the city.
“We need to do everything we can do to stop this madness and to protect people from such crazy idiots,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said of the change in the law.
The new package of laws also increases the penalty for using your mobile phone at the wheel. In the future culprits can expect a €100 fine instead of the previous €60. If using one’s phone leads to an accident, the fine will be increased to €200, with a driving ban of a month.
“Whoever looks at their phone while driving is travelling blind and puts other people’s lives at risk,” said Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt.
More daunting fines have also been imposed for people who delay the work of emergency services on Germany’s roads and Autobahns.
Anyone who fails to build a rescue lane on a motorway must now be prepared to pay a fine of €200, ten times the previous amount. Meanwhile those who don’t immediately move out of the way of a police car or ambulance when it has its siren on, face a month’s driving ban plus a €240 fine.