Road rules in Germany

Autobahn in the evening
Autobahn in the evening

Road rules in Germany

by Stripes Europe
Stripes Europe

Here are key rules to know for driving in Germany:


Talking on cellphones while driving is illegal unless using a hands-free device. There will be a mandatory seven day suspension for the first offense. Subsequent offenses may carry heavier penalties. 


In addition to EU regulations (see European Child Safety article on page 13), children 12 years of age or younger and who are shorter than 150 centimeters (approximately 59 inches) must be properly restrained in child restraints or booster seats that are approved for their size and weight. 


Your vehicle must contain an EC-regulation warning triangle, reflective vest/jacket and first-aid kit. 


A blood alcohol level of 0.05 is over the limit and against the law. The limit for new drivers (under age 21) and commercial vehicle operators is 0.0. DWI rules apply to E-scooters, also. Even if you are under the legal limit, if you are in an auto accident after drinking, you may be found at fault, whether you actually caused the wreck or not. 


Showing contempt or disrespect to “Polizei” is against the law. The offense is called “Beamteninbeleidung” and means “insulting a public official or civil servant while in the course of duty.” The law does not define insult, so any rude gesture or word could be considered offensive. Fines have been known to range from 25 euros to thousands of euros and up to a year in jail, depending on the severity of the offense. 


Germans expect each other to be confident drivers, who obey traffic laws, are alert and drive defensively at all times. By doing so, this “doctrine of confidence” allows both drivers and pedestrians to have confidence in one another, knowing that all are constantly maintaining the responsibility of being safe. By signing for your USAREUR license, you also agree to be a confident driver at all times. 


When driving on the autobahn, you must create a rescue lane in a congested area even if there is no imminent danger or obstruction. 


There are a few important German words you are likely to see on road signs while traveling in Germany. 

• “Ausfahrt” – Exit 

• “Einbahnstrasse” – One-way street 

• “Einfahrt” – Entrance 

• “Nebel” – Fog 

• “Rollspit” – Loose gravel 

• “Schnee” – Snow 

• “Stau” – Traffic (congestion) 

• “Umleitung” – Detour 

• “Unfall“ – Accident 


If you are reported (and you probably will be) for flipping the bird to fellow motorists, you could face a hefty fine. 


Unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph) in urban areas and 100 km/h (62 mph) outside city limits. On the autobahn, the recommended speed limit is 130 km/h (80 mph), unless otherwise posted. Driving too slow is also illegal and dangerous because you create an obstacle. The minimum speed you must travel on the autobahn unless posted is 60 km/h (37 mph). 


Drivers with U.S. forces driver’s licenses in Europe (USAREUR) should know that U.S. military police maintain a demerit point database that keeps track of driving and some parking offenses. When drivers commit offenses either on or off base, citations are sent to military police, and points are assessed against your license. Drivers assessed with 12 points in a 12 month period or 18 points in a 24 month period will face the loss of driving privileges. For a table of specific offenses, their corresponding assessed point amounts and lengths of suspension, refer to the current Army in Europe– Africa Regulation 190-1/USAFE–AFRICA Instructions 31-202. You can also contact your local military police. 


All motor vehicles and motorcycles have clearly marked winter or all-season tires for icy, snowy, slushy road conditions. Tires must have an alpine symbol or “M+S” (mud + snow or “matsch und schnee”) marking. Tires produced as of 1 January 2018 must have the alpine symbol with three mountain peaks. While the law does not mandate calendar dates during which snow tires are required, it is recommended to have snow tires mounted from early October until early April. Studded snow tires are prohibited, and snow chains are required only in a few areas; police or road signs will direct you when they are needed. 


The minimum driving age is 18. Service members and dependents stationed in Germany must have valid U.S. Forces Certificate of Licenses (USAREUR), valid U.S. driver’s licenses, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. If you are not stationed in Germany but traveling within the country, it is a good idea to carry an international driving permit.

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