Driving in Germany – Before you Go
Germany is the last frontier for car lovers and people who love to drive. It is the only country without a speed limit that has well-paved, smooth roads. But if you are unfamiliar with the swap eu driving license to uk road signs or rules of the road German driving can be stressful, tiring and dangerous. Before you drive in Germany make sure you are familiar with the differences in rules and signs so that you have a wonderful experience.
First of all German driving licenses
Germans are not allowed to drive until they are 18 and then they have to take rigorous driving tests in order to receive their license. Thankfully, a US license is valid in Germany for up to 6 months. If you are visiting German you do not need to get a separate, international license, though it is recommended.
Not all German roads are without speed limits. In the cities, towns and parts of the Autobahn are not safe to drive too fast. These roads will have a speed limit posted on a round sign with a red outer ring and the speed limit in the middle. Common speed limits are 50 kph in town or city limits, 30 kph in residential or business districts, 100 kph on country roads between cities and towns, and 120 kph on dangerous or busy sections of the Autobahn. At the end of a speed limit zone will be the same round sign, grey and white this time, with the speed limit slashed out. Then you are free to go as fast as you would like on the Autobahn or up to 100 kph on non-Autobahn roads between towns.
Right Before Left
There are a lot fewer intersections with stop signs or stop lights in Germany compared to the US. Instead a basic rule is followed, where there is no signage the rule is right before left. When driving through smaller towns or narrower city roads you will come upon many right before left driving situations. Make sure you slow down enough when entering the intersection to stop is someone is on your right. The exception is if you are on a priority road.
Germans have a lot of priority roads. A priority road is indicated by a yellow, diamond shaped sign. These are usually main or well used roads within towns and cities. If you are entering an intersection or there is a road on your right, if there is a priority road sign that means that you have the right of way and the other driver must yield to you.
There are many round-a-bouts in Germany. Most are one lane, but there are some with 2 or more lanes. Round-a-bouts are easy to navigate. The people already in the circle have the right of way. You can merge into the circle when there is an opening. You do not have to signal your turn into the round-a-bout. As you leave the round-a-bout, signal your turn out. They are great to keep traffic moving through an intersection.
In general, it is best to stay to the right. On the Autobahn you are not allowed to pass on the right of someone. Because of high speeds, it is especially important to stay on the right if you are slower. When you do need to pass someone, make sure that you have enough room to get around the car in time. When in the left lane you should be watching your back more than your front. Cars can come up fast behind you and flash their lights to get you to move. It is very dangerous so always watch your back when you are driving on the left lane of the Autobahn.
Do Not Do This on the Autobahn
Above all when driving on the autobahn you must not back up or make a u-turn, stop or park unless on an authorized park place, run out of gas, drive in the left lane to block other vehicles, tailgate or flash your headlights (though people do it anyway), or get out of your vehicle during a traffic jam.
Right Turn on Red
In some states in the US you can turn right at a red light. In Germany, unless it is marked by a special green arrow sign next to the red light you cannot turn right on red.
Cell Phones and Driving
Cell phone use is illegal while driving in Germany. Bring a headset or ask your “co-pilot” to answer the phone for you.
No one wants an accident to happen, especially in a foreign country. If it does happen though, a few steps to take. First all do not leave the scene! Then make sure your emergency blinkers are on and set up your emergency triangle far enough behind your car to warn other drivers. The emergency triangle will be located in the trunk of your car, probably attacked to the trunk hood. Then call the German police who will also be able to send an ambulance. The German police number is 110. Aid the injured if necessary and wait for help. Make sure you do not admit any fault or you may forfeit your insurance coverage. After the police and emergency vehicles arrive they may asses an on-the-spot fine and will let you know the next steps you need to take.
Last but not least there are several speed traps in cities and on the autobahns. The Germans have many high-speed cameras set up on dangerous curves or traffic lights. These cameras flash and take your picture (including license plate) if you are exceeding the speed limit or run a red light. Expect a hefty fine and possible suspension of your license if you get caught. Luckily, you will be able to tell where most of the cameras are located if you follow local German cars.
All in all driving in German is a wonderful experience. The rules are a bit different compared to the US, but many people find driving in Germany less stressful, more orderly, and very enjoyable. If you follow the rules, familiarize yourself with the signs, you will have a delightful driving experience in Germany.