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Germany raises highway fines for rubbernecking, blocking emergency vehicles

A damaged car sits on the autobahn after a 61-year-old driver was chased by German police for entering a U.S. military base in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Saturday, March 19, 2016.

COURTESY OF POLIZEI WESTPFALZ

By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 19, 2017

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Getting stuck in a traffic jam on the German autobahn might cost more than just time and heartache under a new German law that significantly raises penalties for failing to open up the middle lane for emergency vehicles.

The fine will increase from 20 to 320 euros, and a new penalty — loss of driving privileges for a month — will be imposed for the infraction. The changes are effective immediately.

Legislators approved the measure in the wake of a bus fire in Muenchenberg in July in which 18 people died. Rescue workers reported they were blocked by vehicles that didn’t properly form an emergency lane, including motorists who slowed to take photos of the scene.

German law requires all motorists to clear the “Rettungsgasse,” or rescue lane, even in a traffic jam, whether or not there is an accident or emergency vehicles are trying to get to the scene.

On highways with more than one lane, drivers in the left-most lane are supposed to pull over to the left, while drivers in all other lanes are supposed to move to the right to open a corridor for emergency vehicles.

But German officials say the practice has been neglected more and more, the July incident being among the most egregious cases.

The stiffer fines have prompted Kaiserslautern police to warn drivers in the American military community of the importance of forming a rescue lane on the autobahn.

A police helicopter is monitoring the traffic situation this week on the A6, particularly between Kaiserslautern and Landstuhl, said police spokesman Bernhard Christian Erfort. If there is a traffic jam, police on the ground will drive through the traffic and enforce the law if motorists fail to form an emergency lane, he said.

svan.jennifer@stripes.com
kloeckner.marcus@stripes.com
Twitter: @stripesktown

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