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Driving in Germany - The Autobahn Rules

June • 6th, 2022
by Expat in the City Team

The German Autobahn

What to do and not to do while driving on the 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 most of all a scary experience. Cars ‘flew’ passed me while I tried to gather the courage to hit the required speed of  130km/h. Now, a few years later, the cars racing passed me don’t scare me anymore and I can say that even I have hit 171 km/h…only once…but still!


We all know that driving in another country can be a nerve-racking experience.  And driving the German Autobahn is no exception. But once you know the rules and keep to them it can be a really thrilling experience too. Where in the world can you drive so fast on such well kept roads? 


Here are some rules and guidelines to keep in mind when driving on the German highways.


Merging onto the Autobahn

When entering the highway it is important to accelerate quickly. Before you enter onto the Autobahn, you should have reached a similar speed as the other drivers on the highway. Make sure you use 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. This is contrary to when you exit 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 exiting 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 for cars with breakdown and for emergency vehicles needing to reach their destination quickly. Be aware: it is also 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. 

German highway

The German Autobahn: follow the rules, be safe and enjoy the ride! 

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 than 130km/h, 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.


Stay safe!


Your Expat in the City Team




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