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CRIME

Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

A fatal accident involving a speeding driver in the streets of Austria's capital Vienna has once again sparked the debate about illegal car racing in the country.

Does Austria have a street car racing problem?
Is street racing a problem in Austria? (Photo by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash)

A 26-year-old man sped through the streets of central Vienna in his Mercedes on a Sunday evening.

After he failed to stop at a red light he mowed into a car being driven by a 48-year-old woman. She later died in hospital.

The police had said a video recorder at the time of the accident showed evidence the driver was taking part in some kind of illegal race. Even though a Vienna court later said it saw “no evidence at all” that indicates street racing, the debate was already ignited.

Does Austria, and especially Vienna, have an illegal car racing problem?

According to the Viennese police, there are no statistics specifically for street racing. However, “there is an active racing scene in Vienna”, spokesperson Markus Dittrich told The Local.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Estimates put the number of “members of the illegal scene” in Vienna between 800 to 1,000 people. Current hotspots are still the area around Kahlenberg, Triester Straße, the Oberlaa area and the Kagran business park.

The police measured instances of speeding and from April to August 2022, around 6,500 reports were placed in the capital and 30 driving licenses were confiscated on site.

What are the police currently doing?

“In order to take decisive action against the active racing scene, checks have been significantly increased.”

“Furthermore, coordinated traffic planning checks are being carried out by the Vienna police department and various city police commands, and the relevant municipal departments are also involved”, Dittrich said.

In August, the City of Vienna took action in one of the “hotspots” for racing, adding 65 concrete barriers to prevent races in the car park in Kahlenberg, as The Local reported.

As racers move to different areas once blocks are put in place, the police also resort heavily on the two consequences it can impose: high fines and the revocation of driving licenses.”.

READ ALSO: Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

Fines can reach up to €5,000 on higher offences, such as driving 40 km/h or more over the speeding limit in a city (or 50 km/h above limits on a road). In addition, driving licences can be withheld for one month or three months in the case of repeated offences.

From an excess of 80 km/h, the license is taken away for half a year.

Calls for changes in the law

The recent debate in Austria has also now brought the issue of possible changes in the law, with experts claiming that the current legislation might not be sufficient.

Illegal racing is not a crime per se, but offences such as “endangering physical safety” or “deliberate endangerment of the public” are applied. If people are killed or injured, the crime is negligence – with up to three years in prison possible for those convicted of grossly negligent homicide.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

Some are asking for “zero tolerance“, saying that the crimes should not be seen as negligence but as murder – those who drive too fast or under the influence of alcohol take a risk knowing they might kill someone.

Others, however, say that turning negligence into murder holds a trap. “Attempted murder is also punishable. So the penalty for just participating in an illegal auto race where nothing happened? In practice, for example, 12 years in prison for 350 meters of a car race on Triester Straße?” wrote Constitutional Court member Dr Michael Rami on Twitter.

Still, the head of the legal services at Austria’s traffic authority ÖAMTC, Martin Hoffer, told public broadcaster ORF: “To prove murder against someone, you, of course, have to prove the corresponding intentionality”.

“That doesn’t mean a specific intention to kill a certain person, but to seriously consider it possible (and to accept) that someone may die in that situation.” So, a racing driver may not set out to kill someone, but they acknowledge that their actions could result in somebody’s death.

That could be a realistic scenario in an illegal race – and the debate in Austria continues.

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VIENNA

Vienna: How to get up to €1,000 to buy a cargo bike

Austria's capital is offering to subsidise the purchase of cargo bikes (electric or not) for private individuals. Here's how to apply for the funds.

Vienna: How to get up to €1,000 to buy a cargo bike

If you are considering purchasing a transport bicycle and live in Vienna – where those bikes are becoming more popular – you can apply for up to €1,000 in financial support from the City of Viena.

“Transport bicycles are bicycles with added value. They can carry the weekly shopping, the things needed for an excursion, or children after a day out at a playground. All this without emitting harmful emissions. A win-win situation for people and the climate,” said Martin Blum, Managing Director of the Vienna Mobility Agency.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to claim your €200 voucher for electronics repair in Austria

The purchase of cargo bikes for private individuals is subsidised by up to €1,000. In addition, “special bikes” such as wheelchair cargo bikes or wheelchair rickshaws, mainly used to transport people with walking disabilities, will also be subsidised.

“In order to advance climate protection in Vienna, a variety of measures are needed. In addition to expanding public transport, sharing services and cycling infrastructure, we are also promoting transport bicycles,” said Mobility City Councillor Ulli Sima.

How much will the City finance?

Private individuals with their primary residence in Vienna have the opportunity to receive a subsidy. A maximum of 50 percent of the purchase price is refunded.

For transport bicycles without an electric motor, the maximum subsidy is €800. The maximum support for cargo bicycles with an electric motor is €1,000.

The subsidy applies to newly purchased transport bicycles and retroactively.

READ ALSO: Energy costs: Vienna to support 200,000 households with up to €500

Transport bicycles purchased after March 1st 2022, can be submitted for funding. The City of Vienna’s transport bicycle subsidy for private individuals will run until the end of 2026.

How do I apply for the subsidy?

The applications are made online and in two steps.

The first requires applicants to send documents with details on the bike and its cost and their own data, including your proof of residence.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about cycling in Austria

After the request is approved and you buy your cargo bike, the second step needs to be completed. It involves sending the invoice for the cargo bike, including a picture of it, and other information, including your bank account details, so that the payment can be made to your account.

In other words, the funding comes only after you’ve purchased the bike, but it is confirmed beforehand – so you don’t need to worry about buying a bike and ultimately paying the total price for it.

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