Gawping – A social problem?
Hardly a week goes by without reports of rescue workers being hindered or disturbed by onlookers. This not only makes the work of the police and other emergency services more difficult, but can even cost lives and lead to further serious accidents.
It is not uncommon for conflicts to arise between onlookers and rescue workers when the bystanders do not comply with the request to leave or, in many cases, also take videos and photos of injured and killed persons without any consideration.

Legal consequences

Criminal Code (StGB)
§ Section 323c Failure to render assistance; obstruction of persons rendering assistance

(1) Any person who fails to render assistance in the event of an accident or common danger or distress, although this is necessary and can be reasonably expected of him under the circumstances, in particular without considerable danger to himself and without violating other important duties, shall be punished by imprisonment of up to one year or by a fine.
(2) Likewise, anyone who in these situations obstructs a person who is providing or wishes to provide assistance to a third party shall be punished.

Criminal Code (StGB)
§ 201a Violation of the most personal sphere of life and of
personal rights through image recordings

(1) A custodial sentence not exceeding two years or a monetary penalty shall be imposed on anyone who

  1. makes or transmits an unauthorized image recording of another person who is in a dwelling or in a room specially protected against viewing, and thereby violates the highly personal sphere of life of the person depicted,
  2. unauthorized production or transmission of a picture that shows the helplessness of another person and thereby violates the highly personal sphere of life of the person depicted,
  3. unauthorized production or transmission of an image that displays a deceased person in a grossly offensive manner,
  4. uses or makes accessible to a third person a picture produced by an act according to numbers 1 to 3, or
  5. knowingly makes an image of the type specified in Nos. 1 to 3 accessible to a third person without authorization and, in the cases of Nos. 1 and 2, thereby violates the highly personal sphere of life of the person depicted.

(2) Any person who without authorization makes accessible to a third person a photograph of another person which is likely to cause substantial damage to the reputation of the person depicted shall also be liable to punishment. This also applies under the same conditions to a photograph of a deceased person.

As can be seen from the text of the law, filming and photographing is generally prohibited, regardless of whether the material is posted on the Internet or sent on social media.
Moreover, it is difficult to understand what reasons lead onlookers to exploit other people’s suffering in this way. Researchers point out that while digitization is not the cause of this phenomenon (onlookers have always existed), the inhibition threshold seems to have lowered and the opportunities to pose in person with horrific images on social media are increasing. In addition, there is a flood of daily disaster images and news, which leads to the fact that a certain habituation or even blunting effect can occur.

Correct behavior at the scene of an accident

Basic principles:

  • Keep calm
  • Do not forget self-protection
  • Get an overview
  • Organize help
  • Secure the accident site
  • Rescue involved persons from the danger zone

Make an emergency call:

  • Where?
  • What?
  • How many injured?
  • What injuries?
  • Wait for consultation – stay on the line

Note special factors

  • Location of the accident site
  • Weather conditions
  • Time of day
  • Lighting conditions

Safety equipment

  • Warning light
  • Warning triangle
  • Means of illumination
  • High-visibility vest

Martina Habeck

The department for road safety of police Münster informs drivers of commercial goods and persons free by sending regular “information-mails”. We will keep you up-to-date on news and changes in the social rules (driving and rest periods). Information on digital recording equipment, cargo securing and anything that might be important to you, we will pass on to you.
Are you interested? Be curious!
Send us an email to join our mailing list! E-mail: vsb.muenster@polizei.nrw.de

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