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Diesel driving ban: Some cities are becoming stricter

In order to keep the air clean in certain zones, some German cities have issued driving bans for older diesel vehicles. Disregard can be expensive, but not everywhere.

At the latest since the introduction of environmental zones and the obligation to display particulate matter stickers, motorists have had the issue of pollution in conurbations on their radars. In order to get the air even cleaner, some cities have to go even further and impose driving bans on older diesel vehicles. Most recent example: Munich. A diesel driving ban for Euro 4 vehicles has been in effect in the environmental zone since February 1st. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, this affects 70,000 vehicles registered in the city alone.

From October 1, 2023, Munich even wants to extend the driving ban to Euro 5 diesel - which will affect an additional 70,000 car owners. For classification: We are talking about cars that are not even ten years old, such as a VW Golf 7. Anyone who drives anyway is no longer a trifle. The Bavarian capital wants to punish a violation of the zonal diesel driving ban with a fine of 100 euros — plus an administration fee of 28.50 euros.

Many exceptions allowed

Cities like Munich have to act in this way because after a lawsuit by the German Environmental Aid (DUH) and the German Traffic Club (VCD) they were obliged to an air pollution control plan. Specifically, it is about the excessive nitrogen oxide pollution (NOx), which is generated locally, above all by older diesel models without SCR catalytic converters. Only from the Euro 6 emission standard onwards are almost all cars and commercial vehicles equipped with SCR catalytic converters.

Because not all drivers can afford a modern Euro 6 diesel, many cities have defined generous exemptions. Munich, for example, excludes nursing staff and people who work in shifts from the ban. Residents, craftsmen and suppliers can also apply for an exemption. In addition, visits to the doctor should not be impeded by a driving ban. The German Environmental Aid has already announced that it will take a close look at these exceptions.

Reinforced controls

Such a driving ban can only be controlled with increased effort. After all, Euro 4 cars also have a green particulate matter sticker and cannot be identified from the outside. The police and public order office must therefore either take a look at the vehicle registration document or ask the registration office how the vehicle is registered. In some cities, many violations have already been punished during such controls. In Stuttgart, 1,550 fine notices (EUR 128.50 each) were issued in the first ten weeks after the introduction of the "small environmental zone" in the city basin.

Munich is granting drivers a grace period of two weeks. Until mid-February, the police will only admonish diesel sinners.Then, however, days and weeks of action follow, during which there are more controls and penalties. Munich is not alone in this approach. Also in Hamburg (here an offense costs 25 euros), Darmstadt, Essen or Gelsenkirchen you can now find road blocks in some areas.

There is no nationwide regulation for bans on driving through. This also applies to the fine. The situation is different with the fine dust sticker. Anyone who makes them illegible, attaches them incorrectly or omits them entirely is now fined 100 euros. There have not been points in Flensburg since 2014. The fine will also be collected if the registered license plate number does not match that of the car.

Berlin and Cologne without bans

In the German capital, too, there was a temporary driving ban on diesel with the Euro 5 emissions standard and worse on some streets. However, the Berlin Senate has now lifted all eight local drive-through barriers because the nitrogen oxide limit of 40 micrograms per cubic meter of air has been undercut by far. Instead, the speed limit in the affected areas is now 30.

Diesel driving bans should be introduced in Cologne from April 2019. This was determined by the judgment of the administrative court in November 2018. However, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia has appealed to the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster. To date, no driving ban has been imposed in the Rhine metropolis.


In some German cities such as Munich and Stuttgart, the passage restrictions for older diesel models with the Euro 4/5 emissions standard or older are being implemented more and more strictly. Diesel sinners have to reckon with a fine of almost 130 euros. However, there is no nationwide uniform regulation. On top of that, many exceptional cases are tolerated. In most German metropolitan areas there are no driving ban zones for older diesel models.


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