Have you been accused of tailgating? │We can defend you!
Have you received a fixed penalty notice for tailgating on a German motorway? We can help you take the right action against it.
Travelling too closely to the vehicle in front is a driving offence which is pursued most often in Germany after speeding and running a red light. For drivers, being accused of tailgating is a serious matter. If you are convicted you could face a driving ban.
The German Highway Code (Straßenverkehrsordnung, StVO) does not stipulate the precise distance that must be kept to the vehicle in front when driving. In § 4 it simply states that a driver must leave enough distance to the vehicle in front in order to be able to stop in if the vehicle brakes suddenly.
For heavy goods vehicles on the other hand, the German Highway Code lays down a standard distance of at least 50 metres (§ 4(3) StVO). Even a temporary infraction of this distance can lead to a fine.
The so-called principle of “half tachometer” offers a general rule of thumb when deciding what distance to leave to the vehicle in front.
For example: A car travelling at 130 km/h should leave a distance of at least 65 metres to the vehicle in front. If the car travels too closely to the vehicle in front and infringes the distance by 3/10, the driver risks receiving three points on their licence or a driving ban.
The case law requires that a car travelling on a dual carriageway or other high-speed road should leave a gap of 1.5 seconds to the vehicle in front. In the example above, the driver would be travelling dangerously close to the vehicle in front if they left a gap of only 0.8 seconds.
A further legal element to consider is that, for an offence to be committed, a vehicle must tailgate another vehicle for 250 – 300 metres. Temporarily travelling too closely to the vehicle in front will generally not result in a fine.
In addition the prosecution must prove that the act of tailgating caused a danger to other road users.
As this element is essentially a question of judgment, it is open to dispute and therefore offers a good opportunity for defending against the charges.
The measuring procedure
Various procedures are used to measure the distance between vehicles. Theses include:
1) Bridge cameras
2) Traffic control systems
3) Video distance measuring systems
- VAMA or VAM
- ViBrAM Bamas
4) Video pursuit
5) Distance estimates
Which cameras are standardised?
Until recently, only the VAMA distance measuring system was considered to be standardised. However, now the VKS and ViBrAM systems are also standardised. The bridge cameras and the video pursuit distance measuring techniques are not yet recognised as being standardised.
What are standardised measurements?
Technologies that use standardised measuring procedures are those which are accepted by the courts as automatically adjusting readings to the prescribed tolerance to take account of human inaccuracies in measuring, such as imprecision in aiming, and inherent inaccuracies in the system.
Such procedures do not require the measurements to be taken within the framework of a fully automated system; nor must they guarantee the exclusion of human error. Rather, the measurements are taken under a set of uniform technical rules designed to regulate the way in which the measuring equipment is used and which ensure that the same results are obtained in equivalent conditions.
The standardised procedure presumption is rebutted if there are concrete indications of specific measuring errors.
This is the starting point for mounting a defence against any tailgating accusations. If there is some evidence that a measuring error was made, the standardised nature of the measuring equipment is called into question.
What are the possible lines of defence?
There are multiple lines of defence in summary proceedings.
The first step to developing a strong defence, is obtaining a copy of the police file. Only with the help of the complete police file will it be possible to assess any procedural irregularities. However, only a lawyer can gain access to a police file. This is why it is extremely important to instruct a lawyer when defending against summary road traffic law charges.
We provide an overview below of the possible defences available in road traffic law cases:
Instruction manual / operating guidelines
The correct use of any measuring equipment in road traffic cases plays a large role in securing a conviction. If a traffic enforcement camera is not operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction manual, the measurements taken are inaccurate. This means the measurements cannot be used as a factual and evidential basis to bring charges
Traffic enforcement camera must be calibrated at regular intervals. If the authorities are unable to produce a calibration certificate showing that the relevant camera was properly calibrated at the time of the incident, the measurements cannot be used in the proceedings. A lawyer would need to view the police file in order to establish whether the equipment used was properly calibrated.
Measuring equipment must also be calibrated after it has been serviced. To find out whether a traffic enforcement camera has been properly serviced and calibrated, a lawyer would request a copy of the police file. If it turns out that the equipment was defective, there is a possible line of defence.
Evidence of police training
The authorities must be able to produce a valid training certificate of the person who conducted the measurements. Official measurements can only be taken by personnel who have been properly trained. They must have the requisite knowledge the equipment’s characteristics, how it works, and how it is operated, and as a result the officer should be in a position to reduce the likelihood of errors occurring. If the training certificate is missing, the officer concerned should not have taken the readings. This is why we request a copy of the certificate and verify it.
Poor photograph quality
One of the most effective ways of avoiding punishment for tailgating is for a lawyer to double-check the photographs in the police file. In many cases the quality of the photographs is so poor that the characteristics of the person accused are not recognisable. The charges are often dropped as a result.
For more advice on tailgating and other traffic law matters, contact our expert team of German lawyers on +49 (0) 221 / 951 563 0