Driving in Germany - be aware expats, it's perhaps not exactly like at home!
July • 27th, 2019
Rules for the German Autobahn
My first time driving on the Autobahn in Germany was an experience I won’t soon forget. Not being the most confident driver this was foremost a scary experience for me as cars ‘flew’ passed me while I tried to gather the courage to hit 130km/h. Now, a few years later, the speeding cars don’t surprise me anymore and I can say that even I have hit 171 km/h…only once…but still!
Now that we are driving off to our holiday destinations near and far it is perhaps a good time to repeat the rules of the road. And be aware expats of Munich, it is perhaps not quite like at home.
Here are some rules and guidelines to keep in mind when driving on the German highways, also known as the Autobahn.
Merging onto the Autobahn
When entering the highway It is important to accelerate quickly. Ideally, before you enter, you reach a similar speed as the other drivers on the highway. Make sure you make use of the entire entry ramp, this gives you the best opportunity to get up to the right speed. On the entry ramp you are allowed to exceed the speed limit and overtake on the right if this is necessary to enter the Autobahn safely. Contrary to when you leave the autobahn, then it is not allowed to exceed speed and overtake on the right, except when there is a traffic jam then you can cautiously overtake on the right while leaving the highway.
Using the emergency lane
One of the most important rules is properly using (or not using) the emergency lane. The emergency lane is only to be used it for cars with breakdown and for emergency vehicles needing to reach their destination quickly. Be aware: it is forbidden to use the emergency lane during a traffic jam or stopping for a quick break.
Overtaking on the autobahn - what is the correct way to do it?
Always first check your rear view mirror. Due to the possible high speeds of some cars on the far left lane, it is very important to do this carefully. When you think it is possible and you want to overtake, switch on your traffic indicator. Important to only do this when you are actually going to overtake and not when you want to overtake. That is a small but important difference. And perhaps needless to say, but it is not allowed to overtake on the right. Unless you are of course in a traffic jam.
When entering the highway It is important to accelerate quickly. Ideally, before you enter, you reach a similar speed as the other traffic on the highway.
Use your indicator warning for a traffic jam
When driving towards a (unexpected) traffic jam, you should use your warning indicators to warn the cars behind you. This gives them enough time to slow down and get to the appropriate, safe speed. Usually, the person behind you will switch on theirs when they have seen yours, warning the drivers behind them and so on and so weiter. Also important when you find yourself in a traffic jam is to keep to the side of your lane leaving enough space between the car next to you so that an emergency vehicle can pass through. In principle, getting out of your car while in a traffic jam is not allowed.
Is using your mobile while driving allowed?
You should know the answer to this question, it is of course a big fat NO. Even though a lot of people don’t take this too seriously yet, you really shouldn’t use your mobiel. Many accidents are caused by drivers paying more attention to their mobile then to the road.
What is the general speed limit on the German highways?
When there is no speed limit indicated by signs, there isn’t really a maximum speed limit. However, there is a general recommended speed limit of 130 km/h. Please note that if you exceed this recommended speed limit and you get into an accident you can be held accountable even though you did not cause it. And keep in mind driving too slow is also not allowed. Of course you can can go slower, provided you don’t hinder other traffic.
Keeping to the speed limit
It is important to lower your speed when you see signs that indicate a speed limit. Germans are pretty strict about this and you will notice they immediately keep to the indicated speed limit. If you don’t you can get flashed by a speed camera and you will receive a fine at home including a photo of the driver. Quite handy in case you argue who got the ticket ;) Be aware that speed checks are especially strict with roadworks. The speed limit for roadwork is 80 km/h. Fines can range from anywhere between 10 and 600 euro for speeding.
Want to know more about how driving in the city? Check our article Driving in the City: to car or not to car.