This article will explain how to use a motorway (Autobahn) and an expressway (Schnellstraße) system, e.g. the controlled-access highways in Austria, and not to get fined.
A general rule is: in order to use the motorways and expressways in Austria with a private car or a motorcycle, you have to buy a vignette (toll sticker). The vignettes have to be glued from the inside of the front windscreen. There are vignettes with different validity time: 10 days, two months and one year. A vignette can only be used for one car, and once removed, it is not valid anymore. Since 2018, a digital vignette, which is bound to a license plate, has been introduced. You can buy it online or via an app.
Across Austria, some 100 staff members of an Austrian publicly owned corporation ASFiNAG carry out the toll controls on the motorways and expressways. If you are caught without a vignette, a fine of €120 hast to be paid, and if you are caught while tampering with a toll sticker, a €240 fine is applied. In addition to the manual control, the toll stickers are monitored by using the cameras. In all suspected cases, the system records and stores a large image that includes the number plate and a detailed image of the windscreen.
For the lorries and the buses (e.g. all vehicles with more than 3.5 tons of maximum permissible weight), GO-Box, a kilometre-based electronic toll system is applied. It is a little blue box that is installed in the vehicle. It communicates to the overhead toll gantries via a microwave technology and thus it automatically ensures a correct payment of the toll.
On some motorways (exactly six sections), which were more costly to build and maintain, a vignette is not valid and a separate toll should be paid. Mostly the Alpine motorways with long tunnels require an additional toll. The route toll sections can be found on the A9 Pyhrn motorway, the A10 Tauern motorway, the A11 Karawanken motorway, the A13 Brenner motorway and the S16 Arlberg expressway. The toll is paid at time of use, via the toll stations or online in advance. It is also possible to buy an annual pass. The Digital Section Toll allows the drivers, upon buying a video toll card, to drive through all opened toll lanes without stopping. The number plate is electronically recognised and the barriers open automatically.
A general speed limit of 130 km/h applies on the Austrian motorways and expressways. However, on some sections, it is 100 km/h, which is indicated by a sign. The Austrian Immssion protection law IG-L (Immissionsschutzgesetz - Luft) allows for a certain group of vehicles the temporal and spatial restrictions of the speed limits. This is introduced in order to tackle the problem of air pollution. An applicable speed limits, usually 100km/h and 80 km/h in the city area of Vienna and Salzburg, is sign posted at the electronic displays. However, the vehicles with methane gas or electric drive only, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are excluded from these speed limits.
Often at the tunnels, building sites and sections with a high accident risk, a section control system is applied. The Section Control is a system for monitoring the speed of a specific route, in such a way an average speed of a that route is determined. This ensures the uniform speed on the monitored route.
One more important rule on the Austrian motorways is to form an emergency corridors in a case of traffic congestions. The goal of this rule is to allow the emergency teams a quick and safe access to the scene of an accident. It is compulsory to form an emergency lane as soon as the traffic on the motorway or expressway is beginning to come to a halt, whether an emergency vehicle is nearby or not. The driver is obligated to drive its vehicle to the side of the road and position it parallelly to the emergency lane. In the outermost left lane, a driver drives far left, and all other lanes drive as far to the right as possible, using the hard shoulder as well. A non-observance of the emergency corridor rule is not a trivial offence and it is dealt with it at that manners. The fines for obstructing the emergency vehicles or unlawful driving on the emergency corridor are up to €2180. So, be smart and form an emergency corridor.
To sum up the answer on How to use the Autobahn in Austria, just follow three simple rules: pay your tolls (have a vignette), don’t speed and form an emergency corridor.
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