Something that bothered me. A lot, actually. 

Assume for a moment the following situation (purely hypothetical, of course): a cyclist is cycling on a bike path parallel to a road. At a traffic light, the cyclist has a green light and thus the right of way over parallel traffic (in this case: cars and lorries) turning right. So far, so obvious. Now for reasons unknown, a lorry (3.5 tons, box built – purely hypothetical of course) with a local numberplate chooses to ignore the cyclist and chooses to turn at full speed.

This is one of those situations that actually kill cyclists. There is a slight mass difference here (even calculating the weight of the bike generously, we’re talking about 35 times heavier here – for the lorry, in case that was neccessary). The metal box is also relatively hard, sturdily built and powered by a heavy diesel engine, while the cyclist is wearing spandex and a foamy helmet.

So .. in our hypothetical example, the cyclist manages to break (just – millimeters here), because he (or she!) suspects drivers to do something stupid like this. He (or she!) is then annoyed and sets off after the lorry driver, catching them up at the next traffic light, knocks on their window and shouts at the driver for a while.

It felt like a proper relief, and slight amounts of blood were coursing through the adrenaline. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

During the shouting (the driver [wisely] didn’t reply to any of it), the words “you stupid pee-head” hypothetically may have been spoken (this doesn’t sound quite as stupid in German. Honest!). 

And this is where it gets interesting. 

Because now, the hypothetical cyclist cannot report the (hypothetical) lorry driver to the police any more. Even though the act of turning without a second look (or first) is illegal, and causes DEATH!!, the fine (including the endangering of someone – and I’m not making this up) for this is 100€ and 3 points on the lorry drivers license. If he is actually fined (source for the fine here: http://www.unfall-und-was-nun.de/bussgeld-bussgeldverfahren-bussgeldkatalog-punkte/#vorfahrt [in German – what did you expect]). 

However, the fine for calling someone names in Germany are much more draconic. In the above mentioned (purely hypothetical) example, we’re talking about roughly 2000€ (source for the fines here: http://www.focus.de/auto/ratgeber/kosten/tid-31103/2500-euro-fuer-eine-alte-sau-das-kosten-beleidigungen-im-strassenverkehr_aid_984025.html [also in German]). 

I am feeling vaguely surprised about this. The bodily harm inflicted by harsh words is probably negligible, even assuming a full-fledged roar at 100dB. The mental scarring left by harsh words is hard to measure – one can only hope that in the above (hypothetical) example, some scarring occurs and the lorry driver actually uses his mirrors next time. Yet again – serious harm is hard to see. 

On the other hand, a lorry hitting a cyclist while turning usually leads to this: http://www.br.de/nachrichten/mittelfranken/unfall-radfahrer-nuernberg-tot-100.html [German – the short version: the cyclist is dead dead dead]. Not that long ago. 

 

Seriously? 100€ vs. 2000€? Something is completely wrong with traffic fines …. 

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