EXPLAINED: Germany’s plans for tougher driving fines

EXPLAINED: Germany's plans for tougher driving fines
A speeding car passes a speed monitoring device in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte
The fines for speeding and unauthorised parking could rise significantly in Germany as a draft bill to protect cyclists moves into the final phase.

What’s happening?

A new bill from the Ministry of Transport that would see a dramatic rise in fines for drivers could soon be signed into law. If the bill goes through – as it is expected to do – vehicle owners could face significantly higher fines for traffic violations such as illegally using cycle or bus lanes or exceeding the designated speed limit.

These would include fines of €70, rather than €35, for driving 16-20 kilometres per hour over the speed limit in a built-up area, with fines increasing for higher speeds, and a €100 rather than €25 fine for illegally using a pavement or cycle lane.

It also includes new rules that stipulate that lorry drivers must operate their vehicles at walking speed when turning right in urban areas, and penalties for illegally occupying a parking space for electric or car-sharing vehicles.

READ ALSO: Busting the myths around zebra crossings – the rocky rules of German roads

Following a lengthy dispute between the federal and state governments over the higher penalties, the Bundesrat, which represents the 16 federal states, is due to decide on the changes on October 8th.

With the Transport Committee recommending the bill for approval, the chairperson of the Conference of Transport Ministers (VMK), Maike Schaefer, is confident the new penalties will be signed into law.

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If passed on October 8th, the increased fines would come into force three weeks later, near the end of the month.

What’s this about?

According to Schaefer, the new regulations and the hefty fines are intended as clear signal to motorists to stick to speed limits and help protect cyclists and pedestrians.

“We know that excessive speed is the most frequent cause of accidents,” she said. “The catalogue of fines and road traffic regulations are ultimately traffic education measures for mutual consideration.”

She praised the compromise reached between the federal and state governments in April as a “real breakthrough” in which agreement had been reached across party lines.

The tougher penalties were initially meant to be introduced last year, but errors in the bill and debates over the level of the fines meant the stricter rules ended up being suspended until this month.

Greens politician Maike Schaefer speaks at a Green Party conference
Greens politician Maike Schaefer speaks at a Green Party conference in Bremen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Schaefer said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer had also played a constructive role in shaping the new rules. “It was a mutual give and take,” she said.

What are people saying?

For the German Cyclists’ Federation (ADFC), the proposed fines for stopping on hard shoulders, for stopping and parking on cycle lanes, and new rules on the speed of lorries turning right are the measures that can contribute most to accident prevention.

Overall, however, the amendment was only a “step in the right direction”, said ADFC spokeswoman Stephanie Krone.

“The road traffic regulation still privileges the car and hinders municipalities from quickly redesigning roads to make them cycle-friendly,” she told DPA. This has to change for reasons of climate protection and road safety, she added.

“Municipalities need the possibility to set up large-scale 30 km/h speed limits and new protected cycle lanes on main roads, without bureaucratic hurdles,” To this end, she said, the new federal government must quickly reform traffic law.

“For this to work in the coming legislature, it has to start in the first 100 days,” she added.

READ ALSO: German city mayor plans to hike up parking charges by 600 percent

How high are the new fines, and what are they for?

If the bill is approved, the following penalties and rules will apply:

  • Motorists who park their vehicles in a general no-stopping or no-parking zone will find a ticket of up to €55 – as opposed to the previous fine of €15.
  • Those who drive 16-20 kilometres per hour (km/h) faster than the limit in built-up areas will pay €70 instead of €35. The more the driver exceeds the speed limit, the higher the fines: people who speed through town at more 91 kilometres per hour instead of the designated 50 kilometres per hour, for example, will pay €400 instead of €200 if they are caught
  • Drivers who park without authorisation in a parking space for the severely disabled will receive a fine of €55 instead of the previous €35.
  • Anyone who parks their car in an officially marked fire brigade lane or obstructing an emergency vehicle will be fined €100.
  • Illegal use of pavements, cycle paths and hard shoulders by vehicles will be punished with a fine of up to €100 instead of the previous €25.
  • Anyone who fails to form an emergency lane or even uses one themselves to move forward faster by car can expect a fine of between €200 and €320 as well as a one-month driving ban.
  • A new rule: unauthorised parking in a parking space for electrically powered vehicles and car-sharing vehicles will result in a warning fine of €55.
  • Lorry drivers who violate the newly introduced obligation to drive at walking speed when turning right in built-up areas will be fined €70.
  • Boy racers beware: The fine for causing unnecessary noise and avoidable exhaust or driving back and forth in the same area without a purpose will be increased from up to €20 to up to €100.

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