Driving on the Autobahn in Germany can be fun and exciting. However, anyone who’s ever been on the Autobahn knows that the opposite of driving at the speed of sound is being stuck in a Stau, or traffic jam. Slow moving or even stationary traffic can be frustrating for drivers who are on their way to work or late for an appointment. However, slow moving traffic can also be a problem for emergency vehicles while they try to rush to the cause of the Stau—usually an accident—as fast as possible. Therefore, the German government put a new law in place in 2017 to help emergency crews and tow trucks move through heavy traffic.
“During slow moving or stationary traffic, the law requires motorists to create a Rettungsgasse or emergency alley, in order to let emergency vehicles pass through quickly,” said Thomas Becker, First Police Chief Inspector (Erster Polizeihauptkommissar) with the Wiesbaden Police Directorate.
During an emergency, mere seconds can save lives. Therefore, drivers should form the Rettungsgasse before an emergency vehicle is even in sight. “Once traffic moves slower, drivers in the left lane should move as far to the left as possible, while drivers in the other lanes should all move as far as possible to the right. Failure to do so, can result in a fine,” Becker said.
Emergency vehicles will normally announce themselves with a siren and blue lights. Tow trucks have yellow lights and no siren, but when you hear or see them, it is already too late to form a Rettungsgasse. Once traffic slows down, even within city limits, make sure to follow the guidelines of forming a Rettungsgasse.
Unfortunately, many drivers do not automatically form the Rettungsgasse. This has led to dangerous delays during several emergencies in 2017, which sometimes cost lives. Therefore, the German government decided to increase the fine for not forming the Rettungsgasse from around €20 to over €300 in certain cases.
“While the new fines start at €200 for simply not forming the Rettungsgasse, they can increase to more than €350 with your license suspended for at least one month for blocking emergency vehicles or causing an accident,” Becker said.
Fines and legal procedures apply to DoD drivers just the same as to any other driver on German roads. “U.S. Forces drivers are subject to all host nation traffic laws and regulations and can be cited with traffic tickets and fines just like a German driver,” said Richard Jungmann, Law Enforcement Operations Officer with the USAG Wiesbaden Directorate of Emergency Services, Law Enforcement Branch. He also refers to the Drivers Handbook and Examination Manual for Germany (AE Pamphlet 190-34) as the best source of information for U.S. Forces drivers.