Berlin struggles with growing trend of illegal car racing

Calls for stricter speed controls after woman and daughter seriously injured in crash

Politicians and road safety experts in Germany are calling for stricter speed controls on Berlin’s streets to clamp down on the growing trend of illegal car racing after a woman and her daughter were seriously injured in a crash.

The collision on the main shopping boulevard Kurfürstendamm on Tuesday evening, left a 45-year-old Polish woman and her 17-year old daughter with life-threatening injuries.

The driver and two passengers of a rented BMW, which crashed into the woman’s Ford Fiesta, fled from the scene on foot and were being sought by police. Witnesses said the BMW had been racing against two other cars.

The woman, a cleaner, was resuscitated at the scene and remained in a critical condition in hospital.

The incident is the latest in what local politicians say is a worrying trend, with the Kurfürstendamm, a two-mile (3.5km) stretch of road in west Berlin famous for its luxury shops and restaurants, counting among the top five illegal racing tracks in the city in accident statistics.

Controls have been tightened over the years, as the number of serious accidents has increased. A turning point was a fatal crash in 2016, in which a 69-year-old man in a Jeep was killed by racers, which led to the conviction for murder of the driver responsible for the collision.

The stretch where the latest incident occurred is particularly favoured among racers, because it has 500 metres free of traffic lights and speed cameras.

Local politicians have demanded more speed cameras, as well as the automatic withdrawal of licences for offenders. Road accident experts have called for the road to be closed to all traffic except buses, bikes and delivery vehicles.

Accidents on the parallel Kant Strasse have reduced since the recent introduction of bicycle lanes. Building obstacles into the road to reduce speed, such as sleeping policemen, or bollards, has been rejected by emergency services and the local transport operator, BVG.

Andreas Winkelmann, the senior official responsible for prosecuting illegal racers in Berlin, told Der Tagesspiegel investigators were hindered from stamping out the trend partly because there is no established “racer scene”.

“Races are mostly spontaneous affairs, triggered by a glance to a neighbouring driver,” he said. He called for tighter controls over renting powerful cars to young drivers, although he said that culprits often drove cars rented by other family members.

Berlin police have launched 1,500 separate investigative procedures into illegal racers since 2017.