The Rescue lane and its troubles


The term “rescue lane” (or German “Rettungsgasse”) refers to the route to be created by road users for rescue workers in the event of a traffic jam or a traffic flow at walking speed on multi-striped lanes. It must be formed in sufficient width in any traffic jam – irrespective of whether rescue forces are approaching or not. While the rescue lane is mandatory and regulated in Austria and Germany, different regulations apply in other European countries.

The idea is that the rescue services reach the scene of the accident faster, improving the chance of survival for the life-threateningly injured. Corresponding fact sheets state that a four-minute faster arrival of the rescue forces increases the chance of survival by up to 40%. In addition, the faster the rescue forces are on site, the faster the site could be cleared, enabling road users to continue their journey earlier.

Nevertheless, while this approach seems very simple in theory, problems occur again and again in practice: It can happen, that no correct rescue lane is formed, people are unaware of its usage or simply unwilling to follow the instructions. This happened again last week on the German autobahn: Since the road users were unable to form a proper rescue lane after an accident on the motorway, the emergency services had to leave their cars behind more than 300 metres before the accident site and walk the last part. Luckily, both drivers only suffered moderate injuries but were not trapped in their wrecks.

“If the injuries to the drivers had been life-threatening, the defective rescue lane could have cost a human life today,” the local fire brigade stated after the operation. The fire brigade therefore urgently appeals to all car and truck drivers to adopt and implement the rules for the formation of a rescue lane.

The entire report can be read here