The roads and highways in Germany are in excellent condition and getting caught in a pothole is as rare as spotting a dinosaur! Civil engineering and maintenance have ensured good roads. During winter months, response to emergencies is quick and well planned. In the East, new roads are coming up that meet Western standards. However, there are still a few old antique roads that require work.
It is a good idea to know all the roads and regulations, parking laws and vehicle requirements before you start driving down the Autobahnen at full speed. And yes, it is true: there are no speed limits on the German autobahns!
Generally, an international driving license is not required for renting a car in Germany, and a domestic license will suffice. If, however, you should have a traffic accident or an encounter with the law, it would be desirable to have one.
If your driving license was issued by a European Union country, you can use it with no limitations. If your license was issued by a country that is outside the European Union, you can use it for six months from your entry date. If you plan to stay in Germany for over six months, you can obtain a six-month extension to use your existing license. For periods of over one year, you will need to get a German Driver’s license, which in many cases is a simple matter of exchanging your local license for a German one. In other cases it will be necessary to take a written exam, a driving test, or both.
As with most countries, you must carry your legal documents at all times including a photo ID.
When driving in Germany you must have proof of third party liability coverage for all damage or injury to another person, car or object. Collision or comprehensive insurance isn't required by law.
The minimum age requirement for driving in Germany is 18 years. Drivers usually must be over 21 (sometimes even older) to rent a car.
Seatbelts are mandatory for passengers sitting both at the front and the back. There is a 30€ on-the-spot fine for each person in a car not using a seat belt.
Children under 12 years of age are not allowed to sit in the front, and must be seated at the back while fastened with a seat belt.
Drinking and driving laws are strict, and the legal amount of alcohol allowed in the blood is 50mg. In Germany, a driver can be forced to submit to a blood test. Drivers exceeding this limit will be fined and face a license suspension of up to three months for the first offense.
The speed limit differs in different areas:
Many towns and villages enforce a much lower speed limit in residential areas, usually 30kph, to protect children and pedestrians who live in the neighborhood. These speed limits are many times enforced by automatic cameras. The lanes have painted numbers to show the speed limit of that particular area, as well as noticeable signs.
Depending upon the visibility, the speed limit varies. If the visibility is less that 50m, then the speed limit is 50kph.
In the Autobahnen it is recommended to maintain a speed limit of 130 kph.
Trucks, trailers are caravans have lower speed limits, which is generally 80kph on all non built up areas.
Usually, if you're caught speeding, you will not be stopped at the time of the offense, but will get a speeding ticket through the mail (as far as two or three months after the incident). You may be caught speeding even if you are only a little above the posted speed limits. I got a fine for going 58kph in a 50kph road!
If your car is rented, the rental company will forward the ticket to your address, and usually charge you stiff fee for doing so. Photographs of the violation are usually not included with the ticket (though sometimes they still are). These photographs were banned a few years ago in Germany, as such photographs showed marital indiscretions. If you do wish to view the photograph, you will have to visit the local police station.
Violations are taken seriously in Germany. Therefore going above any speed limit could result in you paying a large fine. For exceeding the limits by more than 40kph you may lose your driver's licenses for a period of up to three months, plus a stiff fine.
The offense system in Germany is a tough, computerized point system, which is used to get dangerous drivers off the road. The more offenses you commit, the more points you accumulate. When it reaches a certain number, your license will be temporarily or permanently taken, and you might be asked to join safe driving classes. Some fines may be collected on the spot, provided the driver has enough cash on hand; otherwise, your name and address will be taken and a ticket will be mailed to you later with an accompanying payment slip.
Unless otherwise posted, the driver coming from the right at an intersection has the right of way, even if you are on what looks to be a major road, you may not be on the "priority" road. A diamond-shaped sign (yellow in the center surrounded by a white border) tells you if you are on a priority road.
If you're involved in an accident, do not leave the scene for at least 30 minutes if alone. If you are involved in an accident with others, you must exchange personal and insurance information. Leaving the scene of an accident can lead to severe financial penalties and, depending on whether personal injury to others or extensive property damage is involved, you could be incarcerated or lose your license.
German law requires that all automobiles have a portable red reflective triangle and a first aid kit in their trunk.