Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Germany?
Driving in Germany is generally considered to be a pleasure because of the excellent roads there. However despite what you may have heard there are actually many sections of the autobahns which do have speed limits. Germany also has the second largest road system in the world. Cars are generally manual unless otherwise specified.
Vehicles entering an intersection from the right have right of way unless otherwise stated. Traffic entering the motorways must yield to traffic which is already on the motorways If you break down on the autobahns there are emergency phones located every two miles. Passing cars on the right is strictly prohibited.
Germany uses a priority roads system to define right of way and this is marked by a diamond sign in yellow with a white border. Traffic on these roads has priority over traffic on all other roads.
Traffic police show blinking signs which say Polizei Halt if they want to stop you.
If police decide to pull you over they use a traffic paddle to indicate to you while their car will say 'Polizei bitte folgen'.
Seat Belt Laws
By law, the driver and all passenges must wear seatbelts if the car is underway. Failing to do so will imcur an on the spot fine of 30 euros.
Drinking and Driving
In Germany, the legal limit for having a drink and then driving is a maximum of 50mg per 100ml of blood. This is significantly less than the UK so it's recommended that you don't drink and drive. The limit is zero for those under 21 who have had their licence for less than two years.
Must Have Documents
In Germany you'll be able to use your UK/EU driving licence without a problem but must carry it at all times when driving. You'll also need proof of insurance and the vehicle registration document as well as your passport or a copy.
Contrary to popular views, there are speed limits on most of Germany's roads and they are as follows:
Motorways – 130km/h
Outside of town – 100km/h
Urban – 50km/h
Speed limits can vary in town and all limits are reduced when the weather is poor.
Unmarked cars patrol the roads and you'll be fined on the spot. Fixed cameras will send a ticket to your home address or the rental company who will pass it on.
Minimum Driving Age
The minimum driving age is 18 but you'll find that car hire companies insist on you being at least 21 or even 23. Even then you may be asked to pay a young driver premium.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
It's illegal to have a device that detects speed cameras or mobile radar traps. If it's part of your sat-nav, it must be diabled. An on the spot fine applies for contravening the law and the device may be confiscated.
On the Spot Fines
German traffic police have the authority to levy an on the spot fine for minor traffic offences up to 35 euros, if fines are above that they may collect that amount as a deposit. Commit a major offence like drunk driving and you'll likely face a court appearance instead. If you don't have the cash, you'll be taken to a cash machine or bank and if still no cash, your car will be impounded.
Child Safety Rules
Children need to be over 1.5m tall to sit in the front of the car. Younger than that they'll need appropriate seats and fixings in the rear unless they are a baby in a car seat which must face backwards in the front and have the airbag disabled.
You need to have a minimum of third party cover and be able to prove this with a certificate of insurance or a green card.
Rules of the Road
Standard European driving laws apply with one or two exceptions.
You must carry a warning triangle and a reflective jacket.
You must not indicate joining a roundabout, only when you are about to exit it
Police can collect a deposit from you or impound your car as security against a potential fine for traffic violations.
There are no specific rules for towing another vehicle but for safety's sake, make sure hazard lights are on and that other drivers know what you are doing.
German roads have fixed and mobile speed traps. You will either be given an on the spot fine if stopped or a ticket will be sent to your home address or via the car rental company.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
It's against the law to use a mobile phone without a hands free kit in Germany. You will be fined up to €35 if caught.
You cannot park within 15 metres of a bus stop or street car sign, within 5 metres of an intersection, or within 50 metres of a railway crossing sign.You can only park in the direction of the traffic, usually on the right of the road except on one way streets. If you park on the highway at night, your car must be illuminate – e.g. parking lights must be lit. This doesn't apply if there is adequate street lighting. Signs will indicate no parking or no waiting.
Paid parking on the street is payable by parking meter or ticket machine. The first half hour is usually free. Some areas are controlled by parking disc which you can buy from shops, garages or post offices.
You won't find wheel clamps in Germany but cars can be towed away if causing an obstruction. Some cities have parking attendants to monitor parking, others rely on the police or cameras. The fine is the standard €35
Germany is party to the EU disability parking scheme and your blue badge should be accepted anywhere. It's always best to check on signs first for local differences.
Motor Way Signs
The European highways start with the prefix E, while federal roads are B roads.
Motorway - Autobahn
The pleasure of driving – Fahrvergnügen
German Driver's Licence - Führerschein
Petrol – BenzinGreen card found in all rental cars - Zulassungsbescheinigung
Diesel – Diesel
Please follow police - Polizei bitte folgen
Unleaded – Bleifrei
Local traffic office - Straßenverkehrsamt
Road construction - Baustellen
Petrol station – Tankstellen
Fines - Verwarnungsgeld
Fill up - Volltanken
Self service - Selbstbedienung or SB-Tanken
Country Lanes – Feldweg
Warning triangle - Warndreieck
Parkscheibe - a cardboard disc which you can buy at petrol stations. It is to be used in marked areas of limited but un-metered parking to indicate your time of parking.
I have broken down - Ich habe aufgebrochen
Where is the police station? - Wo ist die Polizei?
I have a flat tyre - Ich habe eine Reifenpanne
I have been in an accident - Ich habe einen Unfall gehabt
Where is? - Wo ist?
Where can I buy petrol? - Wo kann ich kaufen Benzin?
Traffic lights follow the Vienna Convention and you should find no problem understanding their operation. It's illegal to turn right on a red light unless there's an arrow indicating that you can. In some cities the lights are self regulating so be aware of strange sequencing.
The only tolls to pay for cars in Germany are to use the Herrem and Warnow Tunnels
The emergency services are on 112.
The American Embassy can be contacted on http://germany.usembassy.de/email/feedback.htm.
What to do in an emergency
For breakdowns, call the emergency number given to you by the car hire desk when you collected the car. All accidents must be notified to the police, even if there is only minor damage and the parties resolve the issues. If someone has been hurt you must inform your insurance company within three days, if there's only damage then you have a week. If in a rental car, phone the emergency number given to you when you collected the car.
Wait for the police to arrive and get the other driver’s names, address and insurance details. Drivers must return to the scene of any serious accident or road death until the police arrive. The police will give you an accident report which is required by your rental company. They can charge you a small fine of 25 Euros if you are in stationary traffic and 40 Euros if you are in moving traffic.
As of April 2014, the price of 95 octane unleaded petrol in Germany is £1.33 whilst diesel is £1.38
|Actually, there is no general speed limit on motorways, only where it's indicated. Unfortunately :(