All motorists on Austrian motorways and dual carriageways must ensure an emergency lane (Rettungsgasse) between the individual lanes is kept clear if a traffic jam starts to form. This rule applies wherever there are at least two lanes and the lanes for traffic in each direction are physically separated by a barrier or other structure. Keeping an emergency lane free should ensure that emergency service vehicles can access the scene of an incident without being held up by traffic.
- there are two lanes of traffic in each direction, the emergency lane runs down the centre of the road between the two lanes.
- Where there are more than two lanes of traffic in each direction, the emergency lane is between the leftmost lane and the lane next to it.
This means that traffic in the leftmost lane should move as far left as possible, and all other road users should move as far to the right as necessary. If there is a hard shoulder (Pannenstreifen), it can be used as required by traffic moving to the right to form an emergency lane. Vehicles moving to form an emergency lane should tuck in parallel to the carriageway so that they do not block emergency service vehicles.
The emergency lane must be formed as soon as a traffic jam begins to form, not just when an emergency service vehicle approaches. The duty to form an emergency lane applies to ordinary heavily traffic, and not just in the event of an accident.
Only emergency service vehicles, breakdown recovery vehicles, hearses and road maintenance vehicles are entitled to use the emergency lane. It is an offence to drive in the emergency lane or to follow an emergency service vehicle using the emergency lane.
On roads other than dual carriageways and motorways, motorists are still required to make space for approaching emergency service vehicles.
Motorists can close off the emergency lane as soon as it is clear that traffic is flowing freely again and is unlikely to stop again in the foreseeable future.
Failing to form an emergency lane, or driving in an emergency lane when you are not entitled to do so, is punishable by a fine of up to 726 euros. If such behaviour results in an emergency service vehicle, breakdown recovery vehicle, hearse or road maintenance vehicle being unable to pass through the traffic, it will be deemed an administrative offence punishable with a fine of between 72 and 2,180 euros.
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