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March 2001

Road Ways

New traffic laws

Last month, several new traffic laws went into effect. Those most talked about are the new rules for celluar phone users. It is now forbidden to telephone, send SMS messages or receive such messages while at the wheel. Those who are found engaging in the practice by law enforcement officers will be fined DM 60, and, as of April 1, will no longer be covered by auto insurance if an accident occurs while they are gabbing. These laws apply to bicyclists as well. However, there are a few loopholes and exceptions to the rules. Celluar phone use is allowed if the driver uses a headset or has a hands-free model. Drivers may make calls or send messages when stuck in traffic for a long period of time, but may not do so in “stop-and-go” traffic or at red lights. New laws — and a new, round blue sign bearing two white arrows — also govern roundabout traffic. All roundabouts are now marked with the new sign. An additional sign, “Vorfahrt gewähren,” warns approaching drivers that those already in the roundabout have the right of way. Signaling upon entering a roundabout is now forbidden. Officials say the practice led to confusion over who was entering and who intended to exit. Those who like to “cut” in line now may do so legally. Instead of merging at will before an approaching convergence of lanes, officials now require drivers to continue to the end of their lane first, then nose into the line of traffic. (Laws on obscene gestures and cursing might be applicable here.) Bicyclists may now ride in the opposing traffic lane. One-way streets must, however, be at least 3 m wide, have a maximum of a 30-km-per-hour speed limit and be marked with a “Radfahrer frei” sign. Soon, a higher speed limit will also be posted on many city side streets. Watch for new signs.

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