Austria to seize and sell cars of people who break speed limit

Section of a motorway
Section of a motorway

Austria is set to clamp down on reckless drivers by confiscating their cars and selling them at auction.

In a bill presented on Wednesday, Vienna promised to get tough on drivers who “refuse to learn”.

Starting in March next year, anyone caught breaking the speed limit by 60 km/h (37mph) inside an urban area or settlement will have their car immediately confiscated, said Leonore Gewessler, the country’s transport minister.

The same will apply to people breaking the speed limit by 70 km/h (43mph) on country roads or on motorways.

Authorities will then have two weeks to decide whether to give the car back or to sell it at auction.

Any decision on whether to take the car away for good will be dependent on the driver’s previous record and the gravity of the speeding offence.

People caught travelling at extreme speeds could have their vehicle taken away on a first offence, Ms Gewessler warned.

“People make mistakes, one can break the speed limit. But this isn’t about that. This is about extreme speeding and putting innocent people’s lives at risk,” she said.

“Anyone who speeds down the autobahn at 230 km/h doesn’t just do it by accident.”

Countries with most extreme speeding laws
Countries with most extreme speeding laws

Most of the money that is made from selling the car at auction will be invested in road security while the rest will go to the local community where the offence occurred.

The ARBÖ, Austria’s second largest automobile club, criticised the bill, describing it as a “massive intrusion into property rights” and predicted that it would be challenged in the country’s constitutional court.

But the VCÖ, a lobby group for environmentally friendly travel, said that the boundaries had been set too high.

“People speeding at 90 km/h through a town are endangering lives, too. That is also a speed that doesn’t just happen. You have to consciously step on the gas,” said Christian Gratzer, the VCÖ’s spokesman.

Like most countries in the EU, Austria has roughly halved road deaths since the start of the century.

Nonetheless the Alpine country registered 40 deaths per million people last year, close to double the number who die on British streets.