What many may not know yet: gawkers who, in their mixture of curiosity and sensationalism, obstruct emergency services or take pictures of casualties and the dead, can expect more severe penalties for their behavior than before. This is because the German government has revised Section 201a of the German Criminal Code (StGB) and taken tougher measures against these onlookers.

This means that there is now also a penalty for taking photos or filming accident victims who have died: such offenders now face prison sentences of up to two years or a fine.

For emergency and rescue forces, the now widespread gawking poses a real challenge. Not only do sensation-seeking motorists crawl past accident scenes at walking pace to make sure they don't miss any of the exciting action there, often causing completely unnecessary traffic jams, slow-moving traffic and dangerous situations in the opposite lane. In many cases, rescuers are even hampered in their access to the injured by onlookers who absolutely have to shoot a video of the accident victims with their smartphones or take a "photo for evidence". It does not seem to count for the gaffers that in such situations seconds can decide over weal and woe of the accident victims, even over their lives. Therefore, it can be vital in the truest sense of the word that rescue workers are able to work undisturbed and are not prevented from doing so by gawkers. In addition, onlookers can endanger themselves and rescue personnel at the scene of an accident.

In the meantime, good manners at accident scenes have become so overgrown that helpers are often met with open aggression when they ask gawkers to clear the scene and put away their cell phones. Rescue vehicle crews and police officers are increasingly reporting adventurous experiences in this regard. Psychologists explain the brazenness of the gawkers by the fact that they obviously lack any understanding for the emergency situation in which the accident victims find themselves, as well as for the stress and responsibility of the acting emergency forces. Rather, the onlookers want to defend their free front-row seat at a sensational event and feel perfectly justified in doing so. As an excuse, they often say succinctly, "I'm just looking!"

Specifically, § 201a of the German Criminal Code now threatens anyone with a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine who 1. makes or transmits an unauthorized image recording of another person who is in a dwelling or a room that is particularly protected against viewing and thereby violates the highly personal sphere of life of the person depicted, 2. makes or transmits an image recording of another person who is in a dwelling or a room that is particularly protected against viewing and thereby violates the highly personal sphere of life of the person depicted. produces or transmits without authorization a picture that displays the helplessness of another person and thereby violates the most personal sphere of life of the person depicted, and 3. produces or transmits without authorization a picture that displays a deceased person in a grossly offensive manner. Subsections 2 and 3 apply to many gawkers at accident scenes.

Onlookers at accident scenes may also be held accountable for failing to render assistance if they fail to assist people in distress. The law provides for a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine. For better classification: simply gawking can cost up to 1,000 euros as a misdemeanor.