Quieter roads Fewer accidents in Bonn during the coronavirus pandemic

Bonn · The police have reported 14 per cent fewer road accidents for the first quarter of 2020. But there is still a lot of speeding: during a check on Mainzer Strasse, one in four people were caught speeding. The police were especially on the look-out on one particular day before Easter.

 There are regular speed radar checks on Reuterstraße. In March and April, the police checked the speed of more than 28,000 vehicles within the city area and discovered 3,700 violations.

There are regular speed radar checks on Reuterstraße. In March and April, the police checked the speed of more than 28,000 vehicles within the city area and discovered 3,700 violations.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

The coronavirus epidemic is impacting almost every area of life. Although the strict regulations of the federal and state governments are gradually being eased, there is much less activity on the city streets than before the crisis. There are fewer traffic jams, because many employees are working in home office and there is no need to drive to work.

Nevertheless, the Bonn police are still on duty and are keeping a watchful eye on the streets. “At the current time, in which there are significantly fewer road users on the streets, the police are continuing to monitor and in particular, to carry out speed checks," explained police spokesman Simon Rott. Violations continue to be punished consistently, he makes clear, “because free roads do not mean that the speed can be freely chosen”.

The coronavirus crisis has had a positive effect on the number of accidents. “In the first quarter of 2020, a reduction of up to 14 per cent was recorded,” Rott explained to the GA.

When the police check the speed of road users, officers don’t have to wait long for the first offenders. “Overall, our checks reveal more traffic violations,"” said Rott. “Reckless speeding” was reported in individual cases: “For example, we measured a motorcyclist on the L123 in Wachtberg-Berkum doing 146 km/h where the limit is 70 km/h”, he says. In the period from mid-March to mid-April alone, the Bonn police checked the speed of more than 28,000 vehicles and found about 3,700 violations, which were punished. “The vast majority only had to pay a small warning fine of up to 35 euros; however, about 260 violations were in the large fine range and some of them included driving bans”, the police spokesman summarised.

In the run-up to Easter, the Bonn police were on special look-out, especially on Good Friday, because in the car world, this is known as “Car Friday” and is a day on which mainly powerful cars are expected to be out and about. Therefore, the police increased controls at exit roads to the west and south of the city. “At a speed check on Mainzer Straße we controlled the speed of 2,100 vehicles and one in four was driving too fast,” said Rott.

The city of Bonn is also continuing to check the speed of road users. However, the measurements now involve special hygiene measures, because two people are always present. “The vehicles with the monitoring systems and a driver are provided by an external company. A municipal employee carries out the measurements or puts the system into operation,” explains Markus Schmitz from the municipal press office. The teams have been provided with disinfectant and face masks by the city. “The teams are informed to ventilate the vehicles regularly” said Schmitz.

However, the city administration is currently unable to ascertain whether more people than usual are driving too fast due to the current decrease in traffic volume, but “in general, some drivers are driving too fast,” explains Markus Schmitz.

Drivers with face masks can encounter problems

Motorists are increasingly wearing a face mask while driving, which puts them in a legal grey area. This is because a driver’s face must be recognisable, as stipulated in Section 23 of the German Road Traffic Act. Violations can be punished with a fine of up to 60 euros. Lawyers from the German Automobile Club (the ADAC) point out that anyone who wears a mask behind the wheel must make sure that their most important facial features are “essentially still recognisable”. The ADAC accepts that there is a problem in particular with homemade masks, as these can cover the face too much. “There have been individual cases so far in the city where drivers have been wearing face masks. This can make it difficult to identify the driver in cases of doubt,” said Schmitz. If an administrative offence is committed with a face mask, the normal fine procedure is followed, but “If the driver cannot be identified, the owner can be threatened with keeping a logbook of journeys” the ADAC announced.

(Original text; Maximilian Mühlens, translation John Chandler)

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