Even if a speed limit seems absurd, it still applies. According to information from Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), it has happened several times that modern traffic management systems on German motorways poor visibility in bright sunshine and have reduced the maximum speed to 80 km / h. Dust raised by a combine harvester or even just a spider’s web in front of a sensor was the cause.
In such a case, the employees of the motorway management must first move out and clean the sensors and manually switch the systems again. Until then, the displayed speed limit applies. Alexander Kreipl, traffic policy spokesman for the ADAC on the BR: “As soon as Tempo 80 is there, Tempo 80 is valid – it doesn’t matter whether the snowflake is there or not”. Why is that?
The additional sign “Snowflake” for a speed limit does not allow a speed higher than the specified speed, even in non-wintry road conditions. Klaus Schmidt-Strunk, specialist lawyer for traffic law from Limburg and Vice President of the VdVKA – Association of German Traffic Law Lawyers e. V., based in Kiel, with reference to the notification of the Higher Regional Court (OLG) Hamm dated October 14, 2014 on its final decision of September 4, 2014 (1 RBs 125/14).
The case: In January 2014, the person affected from Rennerod drove his Seat in Burbach on the B 54, coming from the BAB 45. On that day, an electronically controlled traffic sign limited the speed limit to 80 km / h. The additional sign “Snowflake” was attached under this traffic sign – without any further additions.
During a police speed check, the victim was noticed because he was driving his vehicle at 125 km / h. The district court punished this speeding violation with a fine of 160 euros and a one-month driving ban, in accordance with the Fines Catalog Ordinance. The person concerned then lodged a legal complaint. He said that he could not be charged with exceeding 45 km / h because there were no wintry road conditions. The speed limit of 80 km / h with the additional sign “Snowflake” was therefore at least misleading.
However, the appeal on points of law lodged by the person concerned against the district court judgment was unsuccessful. The 1st Senate for fines of the Hamm Higher Regional Court has confirmed the decision of the local court. The additional sign depicting a “snowflake”, when viewed in a meaningful and purpose-oriented manner, only contains an – dispensable – indication that the speed limit is intended to ward off the dangers of possible winter road conditions.
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ADAC traffic expert Kreipl also confirmed this to the BR: “The snowflake is only an indication of why it can be dangerous at this point.” This could be the case on bridges or in forest areas, for example. “In theory, there can also be sudden drops in temperature in June or July: In combination with cold winds, the wetness can freeze over,” says Kreipl. That distinguishes the snowflake from the addition “when wet”, which leaves the driver a “certain space” for a personal assessment.
The note is only intended to increase the acceptance of the speed limit imposed. The purpose of the notice is only to inform road users. Unlike the sign “When it is wet”, it does not contain any time restrictions on the maximum permitted speed. Motorists would therefore have to observe the speed limit arrangement even on a snow-free road.
Schmidt-Strunk recommends seeking legal advice in such cases. He also refers to the VdVKA – Association of German Traffic Lawyers e. V. (www.vdvka.de).