If you speed in Austria, the government can now confiscate your car and sell it

The Austrian government is cracking down on “super speeders” on its roads in an effort to boost safety.

A new law allows the government to confiscate — and even sell — the vehicles of those who drive 60 kilometers per hour (about 37 mph) or more over the speed limit.

Like the US, Austria has seen a recent uptick in road deaths. But roads are far safer in the European nation than in the US, which has far deadlier roads than other rich countries. The US has seen road deaths spike recently — in 2021, traffic fatalities hit a 16-year high, and in 2023, deaths were 13.6% higher than in 2019.

Austria’s director general of transportation, Vera Hofbauer, told Bloomberg News that the new law hasn’t been on the books for long enough to measure its impact, but it’s already being felt. Just hours after the law went into effect, the government confiscated the car of a super speeder, she said.

Austria experienced 4.1 road deaths for every 100,000 people in 2022. Hofbauer argued that “drastic measures” must be taken to stop drivers who “are using their car like a weapon.”

Austrian officials aren’t alone in cracking down on dangerous driving. A slew of European countries have implemented the world’s strictest road safety regulations. In several countries, speeding tickets are calculated based on the driver’s income, so the wealthier the driver is, the steeper the fine.

In Switzerland, speeding tickets have been calculated based on both income and wealth since 2007, when voters decided to crack down on wealthy speeders. One driver was fined more than $1 million in 2010 for driving his Mercedes sports car about 180 mph in a 75 mph zone.

Last year in Finland, a multimillionaire was slapped with a €121,000 ticket — about $130,000 — for going about 18 miles per hour above the speed limit in a 50 kph (31 mph) zone.

The European Union is also cracking down. In 2022, the European Commission mandated that beginning in 2024, all new cars have technology that alerts drivers when they exceed the speed limit. The measure is predicted to cut road deaths by 20%.

The laws seem to be working: countries that have imposed the strictest road rules also have the safest roads. Switzerland has about 2.6 road deaths per 100,000 people each year — among the lowest in the world — and its fatalities have fallen faster than the EU average over the last decade. By comparison, the US road death rate was 12.8 per 100,000 in 2022.

“Sometimes you have to try measures which sound strange at first, and which create new legal questions that you must answer,” Hofbauer told Bloomberg. “But I think we should try everything we can to reduce crashes.”

Read More

Eliza Relman