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DRIVING

EXPLAINED: Germany’s tougher driving fines

Higher fines for speeding and unauthorised parking come into force in Germany this week.

A speeding car passes a red traffic light.
A speeding car passes a speed monitoring device in Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

What’s happening?

Vehicle owners in Germany now face significantly higher fines for traffic violations such as illegally using cycle or bus lanes or exceeding the designated speed limit.

These 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, agreed on the changes on October 8th.

After the Transport Committee recommended the bill for approval, the new penalties were signed into law. They come into force on November 10th 2021.

What’s this about?

According to chairperson of the Conference of Transport Ministers (VMK), Maike 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 earlier this year. “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 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 will contribute most to accident prevention.

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

“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?

Here’s a look at the new penalties and rules:

  • 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

Member comments

  1. Looking at the fines, feel like to avoid all German cars and drive other less powerful cars to avoid fines.
    German cars are so good that you don’t feel speeding. Changing to public transport is also not an option in Germany because it is also expensive than driving a car and parking and very bad punctuality of public transport system.
    I think walking is the best option and good for health.

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For members

EDUCATION

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Germany has a number of specialised nursery schools that focus primarily on helping children with their German language skills. Here's what foreigners need to know about them.

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

What even is a Sprach-Kita? 

A “Sprach-Kita”, or Language Kindergarten, is a special type of nursery school that’s been around in Germany since 2016 under the government’s Sprach-Kita Programme. The main aim is to help young children build up their German language skills to a level that will allow them to succeed at school. 

How is this different to a normal Kita or daycare centre?

Unlike most Kindergartens in Germany, Sprach-Kitas employ staff who are specifically trained in language teaching and acquisition. These specialists are paid for through Sprach-Kita Programme funding and help to shape the environment of the nursery school, making it easier for children to develop their German skills in an everyday setting.

The schools also have access to external support and advice on catering to children with language setbacks, and may work closely with parents to encourage further language development at home. 

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, around 7,000 nursery schools have successfully applied for “Sprach-Kita” status and received at least €25,000 funding through the programme. These were mostly Kitas that had already taken in a higher-than-average number of children from foreign backgrounds, such as those in popular migrant or expat areas.

Sprach-Kitas will generally be much more diverse and focus most heavily on children’s language skills, in addition to teaching young kids about cultural inclusivity.  

READ ALSO: ‘Multilingualism is an enrichment, not a deficit’: Raising bilingual kids in Germany

Who are Sprach-Kitas for?

Any young child in Germany is allowed to go to a Sprach-Kita, but the main target audience for these specialised nurseries are the children of foreign parents.

In households where German isn’t the main language spoken, children may struggle to keep up with their classmates at school due to their lower level of German fluency. That could be because the child has two international parents – such as a French mum and an English dad – or because the child has more contact with a parent who doesn’t speak German. 

According to recent statistics, around one in five nursery-age children in Germany doesn’t speak German with their parents at home. That equates to 675,000 children in total. In addition, around 40 percent of nursery school children come from a migrant background. 

Through the Sprach-Kita Programme, government is hoping to help these children integrate at an early age to set them up fully for life in Germany. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rise in multilingual children in Germany

Do I have to pay for a Sprach-Kita? 

Parents usually have to pay a monthly fee for their child to attend a German nursery school – and the same applies to Sprach-Kitas. The fee structure is generally set by the local government, meaning it can vary widely across different regions of the country.

However, you won’t pay any more (or less) for a Sprach-Kita than you would for an ordinary nursery school. 

Where can I find a Sprach-Kita?

Around one in eight Kindergartens in Germany is currently a Sprach-Kita, meaning they aren’t particularly hard to find.

To look for one near you, the best thing to do is to hop onto the government website and look on this interactive map detailing all of the Sprach-Kitas in Germany. 

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

However, partly due to staffing shortages, Kita places in Germany are highly competitive right now – so securing a place may involve getting in touch with a number of them at an early date. 

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Currently, the funding for the Sprach-Kita Programme is due to end at the end of 2022 – and it’s unclear what the fate of the existing language-focused nursery schools will be after this happens.

Though the three parties of the traffic-light coalition had pledged to extend the scheme in their coalition contract, it appears that the programme was one of the first victims of savage negotiations over next year’s budget.

That means the federal government are now hoping to transfer the responsibility for funding the language support over to the 16 states.  

“Responsibility in the area of daycare for children lies with the states and cannot be permanently financed by federal funding programmes,” a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry told Welt. 

The Ministry for Families has also pledged to make language acquisition a cornerstone of its forthcoming Good Childcare Act, which will see at least €2 billion in federal funding made available for nurseries in 2023 and 2024. 

That could make it possible for existing Sprach-Kitas to remain in place as specialised centres for language support. 

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