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CRIME

Does Austria have a street car racing problem?

A fatal accident involving a speeding driver in the streets of Austria's capital Vienna has once again sparked the debate about illegal car racing in the country.

Does Austria have a street car racing problem?
Is street racing a problem in Austria? (Photo by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash)

A 26-year-old man sped through the streets of central Vienna in his Mercedes on a Sunday evening.

After he failed to stop at a red light he mowed into a car being driven by a 48-year-old woman. She later died in hospital.

The police had said a video recorder at the time of the accident showed evidence the driver was taking part in some kind of illegal race. Even though a Vienna court later said it saw “no evidence at all” that indicates street racing, the debate was already ignited.

Does Austria, and especially Vienna, have an illegal car racing problem?

According to the Viennese police, there are no statistics specifically for street racing. However, “there is an active racing scene in Vienna”, spokesperson Markus Dittrich told The Local.

READ ALSO: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Estimates put the number of “members of the illegal scene” in Vienna between 800 to 1,000 people. Current hotspots are still the area around Kahlenberg, Triester Straße, the Oberlaa area and the Kagran business park.

The police measured instances of speeding and from April to August 2022, around 6,500 reports were placed in the capital and 30 driving licenses were confiscated on site.

What are the police currently doing?

“In order to take decisive action against the active racing scene, checks have been significantly increased.”

“Furthermore, coordinated traffic planning checks are being carried out by the Vienna police department and various city police commands, and the relevant municipal departments are also involved”, Dittrich said.

In August, the City of Vienna took action in one of the “hotspots” for racing, adding 65 concrete barriers to prevent races in the car park in Kahlenberg, as The Local reported.

As racers move to different areas once blocks are put in place, the police also resort heavily on the two consequences it can impose: high fines and the revocation of driving licenses.”.

READ ALSO: Vienna wants to take action against speeding drivers

Fines can reach up to €5,000 on higher offences, such as driving 40 km/h or more over the speeding limit in a city (or 50 km/h above limits on a road). In addition, driving licences can be withheld for one month or three months in the case of repeated offences.

From an excess of 80 km/h, the license is taken away for half a year.

Calls for changes in the law

The recent debate in Austria has also now brought the issue of possible changes in the law, with experts claiming that the current legislation might not be sufficient.

Illegal racing is not a crime per se, but offences such as “endangering physical safety” or “deliberate endangerment of the public” are applied. If people are killed or injured, the crime is negligence – with up to three years in prison possible for those convicted of grossly negligent homicide.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about driving on the autobahn in Austria

Some are asking for “zero tolerance“, saying that the crimes should not be seen as negligence but as murder – those who drive too fast or under the influence of alcohol take a risk knowing they might kill someone.

Others, however, say that turning negligence into murder holds a trap. “Attempted murder is also punishable. So the penalty for just participating in an illegal auto race where nothing happened? In practice, for example, 12 years in prison for 350 meters of a car race on Triester Straße?” wrote Constitutional Court member Dr Michael Rami on Twitter.

Still, the head of the legal services at Austria’s traffic authority ÖAMTC, Martin Hoffer, told public broadcaster ORF: “To prove murder against someone, you, of course, have to prove the corresponding intentionality”.

“That doesn’t mean a specific intention to kill a certain person, but to seriously consider it possible (and to accept) that someone may die in that situation.” So, a racing driver may not set out to kill someone, but they acknowledge that their actions could result in somebody’s death.

That could be a realistic scenario in an illegal race – and the debate in Austria continues.

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Migration Economy: Who are the migrants starting businesses in Austria?

Self-employed migrants - or those building businesses in Austria - contribute hugely to the local economy, a new study has found.

Migration Economy: Who are the migrants starting businesses in Austria?

People born outside of Austria rely, in large part, on self-employment or opening up businesses (and then employing other migrants) as a path to working in the country, a study conducted by the Institute of Advanced Studies (IHS) on behalf of the Integration Fund (OeIF) found.

The study, Migration Economy in Vienna (Migrantische Ökonomien in Wien), also found that some nationalities tend to stick to specific industries – which could be partially explained by how migrants rely on informal networks of people of the same origin to start a business.

READ ALSO: Being self-employed in Austria: What you need to know

For example, people from the former Yugoslavia, Eastern Europe and Turkey often work independently in the construction sector. People from China are strongly concentrated in gastronomy, along with people of Turkish, Syrian, Thai and Maghreb origin.

Migrants originally from Asia and Africa, and especially India, Egypt and Afghanistan, are concentrated mainly in postal and courier services, including bicycle messenger services. Finally, the study found that people from Turkey and former Yugoslavia also appear more often than average registered as taxi drivers.

How much money do they bring in?

Figures from Austria’s Chamber of Commerce (Wirtschaftskammer) showed that business owners in Vienna with a migration background generate € 8.3 billion in revenue and create around 45,500 jobs. 

Plus, these companies pay around € 3.7 billion every year in taxes and duties.

Walter Ruck, President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies with a migrant background not only enrich the diversity of the corporate landscape in Vienna, but they are also an economic factor.”

READ MORE: Diversity and jobs: How migrants contribute to Vienna’s economy

Who are these migrants?

Part of the survey involved a qualitative research with migrant entrepreneurs in Vienna, but also a comprehensive quantitative data analysis of registered businesses.

Many of the entrepreneurs interviewed were first generation (meaning they were not born in Austria), and most were between 26 and 35 years old and male. In total, the small businesses surveyed employed two to a maximum of four employees, most of whom were related to the owner.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The main Austrian ‘tax traps’ foreigners should be aware of

The entrepreneurs with a migrant background who were interviewed generally either did not have higher school-leaving qualifications (known in Austria as the Matura) or have not yet had their foreign certificates recognised in Austria and therefore do not work in their sector of study. 

First-generation migrants, in particular, tend to have lower educational qualifications, which has a negative impact on their chances in the labour market, the study said. Because of that, the respondents named a lack of occupational alternatives as one of the decisive factors for starting a business.

Additionally, many of the respondents said they relied on a network of people from their own nationality for help setting up a business. Many of them weren’t aware of the support offered by official bodies, including the Chamber of Commerce. 

READ ALSO: What is the new cost of living ‘credit’ for self-employed people in Austria?

The study concluded that language barriers and some cultural aspects played a role, but since most entrepreneurs were interested in getting more detailed information on starting and running businesses, there was potential for better communication and targeting by the public offices.

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