Written by Kerstin Cable
Germany is known for its automobile-loving culture. From prestige cars like Porsche to the everyman’s Volkswagen, the Germans have claimed their place in any car lover’s heart. If you’re ready for a spin, make sure you know the following facts to stay safe and legal.
Can You Drive in Germany?
Germany accepts all international driving permits if your stay is temporary. EEA and EU license holders can usually keep driving after they become residents, though other licenses often need be converted. Check out this helpful page from the Federal Ministry for more details.
1. Compulsory First Aid Training for Everyone
In Germany, your path to getting a driving license is complex. It’s compulsory to show evidence of 14 hours of theory lessons and several driving hours with an instructor, depending on the driver’s experience level in different conditions (night drives and Autobahn drives for example). You may also have to complete a sight test, and after that it’s time to take the two driving exams: theory and practice. When you take a practical test, you will be accompanied by a driving instructor and the examiner, and have to complete a set of standard maneuvers like reversing, parallel parking and turning around.
All drivers are also required to complete the course Lebensrettende Sofortmaßnahmen, a modified first aid certificate for the road. This course is offered nationwide and teaches life-saving actions any driver can take in case of accidents.
2. There Are Speed Limits on the Autobahn
Most of my non-German friends believe in the legendary land of no speed limits: the German Autobahn. This is partly true as the Autobahn has no national speed limit, so you should prepare to witness some very high speeds. The law recommends a maximum speed of 130 km per hour (approx. 80mph), meaning you don’t break any laws if you drive faster but will be considered partly at fault for any accidents that may occur.
In reality, there are countless Autobahn stretches that do post a local Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed limit) which is absolutely compulsory, so remain vigilant and drive carefully.
3. All Our Sins Are Recorded in One City
Like many other countries, Germany operates a driving record system for offences like speeding, keeping no distance to other drivers, or running red lights. This system is officially called the Fahreignungsregister, but most people simply call it the Verkehrssünderkartei (traffic-sinner-register). All of a German driver’s sins are registered here, run by the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt in the Northern city of Flensburg since 1951. When you hear a German friend referring to their “points in Flensburg”, they are talking about those notes on a driving record. If you’re planning to drive in Germany, get yourself up to speed on all penalties today.
4. Flashing Your Lights Is a Problem
In many countries, flashing your car lights at a fellow drivers is considered good road etiquette. You may be thanking them for letting you pass, or offering right of way. But when in Germany, hold back on those flashes and observe how other drivers use them. Flashing your lights indicates “you’ve got a problem” and may mean they’ve noticed a problem with your car or even that they’re just an aggressive tailgater.
5. You May Not Need To Drive At All
With a public transport system in the world’s top 10, chances are you never have to drive at all. Our country is connected by the Deutsche Bahn train network and each metro area boasts frequent and reliable buses, trams and commuter trains.
And if you’ve got a little time, discover Radnetz Deutschland, the national cycling network which connects every corner of the country to get you places in a healthy, environmentally friendly way.
Whichever transport method you choose, make sure you stay safe and respectful of other drivers. Gute Fahrt!