We have already written about “framing” in this blog: Framing comprises a set of concepts and theoretical perspectives on how individuals, groups, and societies, organize, perceive and communicate about reality. It is a common method of using distinctive terms in the public debate to convey one’s own view of things – and in a way to ensure that as many people as possible adopt the terms without asking further questions.

Clear message to “speeders”

I have now come across a particularly questionable example in connection with the discussion about the new Road Traffic Regulations in Germany: the “license trap“.

What’s it all about? The amendment to the Road Traffic Regulations, which came into force at the end of April, provides for more severe penalties for speeders than before. Please note that the term “speeders” is, of course, a deliberate choice of mine that is intended to reflect a certain interpretation. Let’s go for a more neutral term then: People who drive their vehicle at significantly higher speeds than permitted.

That’s about as clear a message as you’ll ever find:

Anyone who exceeds the speed limit by more than 21 km/h in built-up areas will have their driving license suspended for a month according to the new Regulations.

Do the Road Traffic Regulations trick motorists?

Only a few weeks after the new Regulations came into force, the story took on a different spin however: Suddenly everything was about an alleged “license trap”, where previously there was talk of a meaningful contribution to more road safety – especially for pedestrians and cyclists in our cities. Let’s take a closer look at the word “trap”: Used figuratively, a trap is a “trick that is intended to catch or deceive someone” (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/de/worterbuch/englisch/trap).

So did the Ministry of Transport and the two houses of the German Parliament act in secret and set a trap for millions of motorists – a trap motorists had no chance of seeing? I don’t think so. The amendment was neither published exclusively on the Dark Net nor was it posted in clandestine fashion by the janitor in the Ministry’s boiler room.

Lobbying using questionable terminology

Surely there is room for debate about whether someone who drives more than 50 kilometers per hour in a 30 km/h zone should have to cope without their driving license for a month. But this debate did take place – and legislators then launched the amended Regulation.

Congestion traps

Now, if lobbying using questionable terminology is all it takes to rekindle such a debate, I too can come up with a few such terms: How about “parking space trap” to describe the fact that when you buy a car, you are not automatically granted free parking space in city centres? Or autobahns as “congestion traps”. After all, no one could have guessed that with almost 48 million passenger cars in Germany (the highest figure ever recorded) traffic could somehow get a bit dense on motorways. So here is the next assignment for the Ministry: Please build wider motorways and more car parks in city centres!

passenger cars in Germany

Here’s a little tip for you:

Here’s a little tip for you: You can avoid the licence trap just by following the traffic rules.

Author

Alexander Schneider

Alexander Schneider

Editor

Mainly working as an editor for internal communications at TÜV Rheinland. He is always looking for exciting stories and topics that are interesting to tell. There are plenty of them in the company. He studied history and has a soft spot for Latin America. Always wanted to do something with media and therefore worked for a well-known publishing house in Frankfurt’s Gallusviertel for a long time. He likes living in Cologne, because the city is the proof: autosuggestion works. Nowhere else can such local patriotism be found despite such pronounced building sins. And it’s simply fun – just like cycling to work. He even attracts attention as a native of Cologne during visits to Berlin, because he simply talks to the people.

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