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National Transport
Rules of the Road

This page last updated November 27, 2013

Below is a rather complete overview of the German traffic code based on my interpretation of the current Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung (Road Traffic Ordinances), as well as numerous contributions by readers.


On this page:


The most important section for foreigners is the right-of-way discussion.
W
hen you're done, you can test your knowledge here.

Licensing

If you are visiting Germany and will not be establishing residency, then your own driver's license from your home country, state, or province is valid in Germany for as long as you're there.  If you will be establishing residency in Germany, your driver's license is valid for six months from the date when permanent residency is established, which in practice is generally assumed to be the date you enter the country.  You will have to obtain a German driver's license in order to continue driving after that six month grace period expires.  If your residency will be for longer than six months but less than one year (and you can legally prove it), you can obtain a six month extension to use your existing license.

If you're using a foreign license to drive in Germany, you're supposed to carry an official translation of your license in addition to the license itself, but if you speak the language well enough, I've found that you should get by fine.  If you should get into a situation where you need to have a translation, you can get one from the ADAC automobile club for about €40.  If you want to have a bit of "insurance", you can take care of this before arriving by getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) in your home country.  In the US, these are available from AAA for $10 plus two passport photos.  (If you're unsure, my recommendation is to get an IDP before you go-- better safe than sorry.)  Keep in mind that an IDP does not replace your official driver's license-- it is just a translation of it in an internationally recognized format.  You must carry your official license with your IDP in order for it to be valid.

If you will be in stationed in Germany with the US military, you will need to obtain a driver's license issued by the US Armed Forces.  See the USAREUR driver's handbook at http://www.hqusareur.army.mil/rmv/regulations/aep190-34.pdf, then come back here for a supplemental guide!

If you are not affiliated with the US military and are going to be living in Germany longer than one year, you will need to get a German Driver's License (Führerschein).  To do this, you must have a valid license in your home country and have not lived in Germany for more than three years.  The process starts with a visit to the local traffic office (Straßenverkehrsamt).  What happens next will depend on where you hail from.  Germany has reciprocal agreements with many countries and US states allowing driver's licenses to be converted.  If you're lucky, you may have to do nothing more than fill-out some paperwork (although after you finally finish all the required forms, you may wonder just how lucky you really are!)  If not, you may still get off only having to take the written test.  Otherwise, you'll have to go through the whole testing procedure, just like the Germans do.  Note, though, that when a conversion is possible, only holders of non-commercial vehicle licenses can convert their existing license to a German license.

If your license was issued in one of the following US states, you can convert your license to a German license without any testing: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington (state), Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.

Licenses from these US states require the applicant to take just the written test: Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, and Tennessee.

For a complete and current list of all US states, Canadian provinces, and other countries with reciprocal license agreements, see the sites listed in the links section at the bottom of this page.

Conversion of licenses from all other US states will require you to take both the written and practical (road) tests.  In all cases, you will probably have to take the vision test, which is usually administered by a commercial eye doctor (at your own expense, of course.)  You may also be required to take a first-aid class.

If you can convert your license without testing, simply complete the required paperwork and submit it.  If you have to take the written test, it will be given at the traffic office.  The test consists of sections covering laws, signs, vocabulary, theory, and energy conservation.  To prepare for the test, you can study this site and/or take a course at a German driving school (Fahrschule).  Be wary, though-- you just want the short laws and signs class, not the full driving course.  The latter course currently costs around €1,500 and consists of 25-45 hours of instruction, including 12 hours of theory, and oodles of practical experience including night and Autobahn driving.  Make sure you ask for the special class for new residents.  If a school tells you they don't offer it, find one that does.

If you have to take the practical on-the-road test, it will be conducted by a driving school and will last about an hour.  It will most likely include a short trip on the Autobahn.  If you need practice, most driving schools offer short courses to prepare for the practical test as well.  Once you pass these tests, you will have a German driver's license valid for the rest of your life!

New-style German driver's license

New EU-standard German driver's license


General laws and enforcement

The minimum age to drive in Germany is 18.  Traffic drives on the right and passes on the left (not the other way around, as some Americans inexplicably think.)  Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers.  Children under 12 years old or shorter than 1.5 meters may not sit in the front seat unless they are in an approved child safety seat.  However, you may not use a child safety seat in the front seat if there is an active airbag.  Motorcyclists must ride with helmets and headlights on at all times.

The basic premise of German traffic law is the "doctrine of confidence", which in effect says that motorists must be alert, obey the law, and drive defensively at all times so that all motorists and other road users (including pedestrians) can have confidence in each other.  Motorists must be especially alert for and anticipate the actions of elderly or disabled pedestrians or children, all of whom are exempt from the doctrine of confidence.  All road users must act to prevent endangering, hindering, and unreasonably inconveniencing other road users.

Drivers must have third-party liability insurance and must carry proof of that insurance as well as proof of ownership (registration or rental papers) at all times.  Vehicles must carry a warning triangle (Warndreieck) and a super-duper highway first aid kit (Pkw-Verbandkasten) in which I defy you to find something as simple as a band-aid.  Germany does not require a fire extinguisher (Feuerlöscher) to be carried, but it's not a bad idea to have one anyway.  You are required to place the warning triangle 100 meters behind your vehicle if it is disabled (200 meters on the Autobahn), although I rarely see anyone actually put it that far back.

Always lock your vehicle and take the keys whenever you leave it.  You should leave your doors unlocked while driving to facilitate rescue in an accident.  It is illegal to drive with your parking lights only; you must use your headlights at night and during inclement weather.  

Fines and penalties
The police are allowed to collect fines (Verwarnungsgeld) for most minor traffic offenses on the spot.  If you don't have enough cash on hand, you can usually pay with a credit/debit card.  If you are unable or unwilling to pay (you have the legal right to do so), your vehicle may be impounded (at additional cost to you, of course), although in most cases you'll probably just be issued a citation to appear in court later.  Note that if you refuse to pay the spot fine, you may be assessed a higher fine when you go to court, and some fines are based on your income.  You need not fear when paying spot fines-- the German police are very professional and corruption is very rare, and you will always be given a receipt for the payment.

Some traffic violations are considered to be felonies and may be punishable by imprisonment if lives or property are endangered.  These include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, illegal passing, U-turns and wrong-way driving or backing-up on the Autobahn, failure to yield the right-of-way, and reckless driving including excessive speeding.

Germany operates a point system for driving offenses.  Most minor violations accrue one to four points, with more serious violations earning five or more points.  Points for minor offenses are expunged after three years; other offenses will remain on the record for five to 10 years depending on the offense.  Motorists who exceed four points on their record at any given time can attend a driving safety class to eliminate four points from their record (two points if the total is greater than nine.)  Those who accumulate 14 points are required to attend the safety class.  They may then voluntarily obtain counseling from a traffic psychologist to eliminate two points from their record.  Anyone who accumulates 18 or more points will have their license suspended indefinitely.  The US military also has a point system that varies somewhat from the German system.

Enforcement
Most moving-violation enforcement in Germany is done via enforcement cameras.  Germany probably uses such cameras more than anyone else (except possibly Britain).  Permanent and temporary cameras-- both automated and manually-operated-- are used to catch speeders, red-light violators, and tailgaters.  Sometimes an obscure sign will warn you of the existence of such a camera, but it's usually too late by the time you see it.  Citations are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle within a few weeks.  If you're driving a rental car, the ticket will go to the rental agency.  They, in turn, will report you to the police as the driver of the vehicle and the ticket will be forwarded to you, although they frequently drop cases against non-EU residents-- it's too much of a hassle since the odds of collecting are pretty slim.  An interesting footnote: the police stopped sending a copy of the photo a while back when several spouses discovered cases of infidelity when they opened the violation notice.  Now, you have to go to the police station yourself to see the photo and contest it if you so desire.  Such an effort is usually fruitless, though.

Some enforcement is still done the old-fashioned way with police using both marked and unmarked vehicles looking for violations.  If you get busted, you'll likely be signaled to pull over by a "lollypop" traffic paddle (see picture below) being held out of the window and perhaps a flashing sign on the back of the vehicle reading "Polizei-- bitte folgen" ("police-- please follow".)  These vehicles typically have on-board cameras recording constantly and the video is used as evidence if the violation is disputed.

Police "lollypop"


Right-of-way

Germany uses a hierarchical system to assign right-of-way (Vorfahrt, Vorrang) at intersections as follows:

  • Police officer: A police officer directing traffic overrides all other traffic controls.  Many officers use obvious motions to direct traffic.  However, if an officer is not motioning and has both shoulders facing you (often with arms outstretched), you must wait.  This applies to traffic behind him as well as in front of him.  If he has just one shoulder facing you (i.e. standing parallel to your path), you have the right-of-way.  If he has one hand in the air, he is preparing to change the traffic flow (equivalent to a yellow light) and all traffic must stop.  Police and crossing guards may also use a traffic paddle ("lollypop")-- this is equivalent to a stop sign.
     
  • Traffic signals: Traffic signals are the next highest right-of-way control.  Traffic signals are discussed in detail on the Signs, Signals, and Markings page.  Remember that you cannot turn right on red in Germany unless there is a Right on red sign sign next to the signal.  If a right on red is permitted, you must come to a complete stop first.
     
  • Signs: Signs are the most common right-of-way control.  Germany uses a system of "priority roads" (Vorfahrtstraßen) to assign right-of-way.  Priority roads are marked with the Priority road sign.  Traffic on a priority road has the right-of-way ("priority") over other traffic at all intersections along the way.  Intersecting streets will have a yield or stop sign.  The yield sign Yield indicates that you must give the right-of-way, but you don't have to stop if the way is clear.  The stop sign Stop indicates that you must first come to a complete stop, then proceed when the way is clear.  Often, priority roads make turns at intersections in towns.  These turns are indicated by schematic signs Priority road turns showing the direction of the turn. (On the schematic, you are approaching from the bottom.)  Traffic proceeding in the direction of the thick line has the right-of-way.  Traffic leaving the priority road must yield to other traffic continuing along the priority road but still has the right-of-way over traffic on the other streets.  By the way, if you are following a priority road that turns, you still must use your turn signal.  Priority roads are cancelled by the End of priority road sign or by a yield or stop sign.  On roads that are not priority roads, right-of-way may be granted by the Priority sign. This sign indicates that you have the right-of-way only at the next intersection.  Be aware that right-of-way signs are also usually posted at signalized intersections. However, the signal takes precedence over the signs unless the signal is not operating; then the signs govern traffic.

    Also, note that the "end of traffic calming zone" sign End of traffic calming zone and "end of pedestrian zone" sign End of pedestrian zone also require drivers to yield to all other traffic including pedestrians.
     

  • Default right-of-way scheme: If there is no policeman, no signal, or no sign indicating the right-of-way, then the following default scheme is used:
     
    • Public road has priority: Traffic on public highways has priority over private drives, forest and farm paths, and dirt roads.  Also, sunken curbstones across your roadway indicate that you must yield.
    • Right has right-of-way: When two public roads cross at an uncontrolled intersection, then right-of-way is always given to traffic approaching from the right.  This includes "T" intersections!  In the US, traffic on the through street of a "T" has the right-of-way.  In Germany, you must yield to the right, even if you are on the through road.  This also includes the rare situation where a main road and small side street cross at an uncontrolled intersection.
    • Zipper rule: When traffic is congested, normal right-of-way rules go out the window and the "zipper rule" (Reißverschluss) goes into effect.  This means that cars feed one at a time alternating from each direction, regardless of who has the posted right-of-way.  The zipper rule also applies when one lane ends and merges into another-- each vehicle in the through lane must allow one vehicle from the truncated lane to merge in. 

Other right-of-way rules

  • In situations of otherwise equal right-of-way, vehicles going straight have priority, followed by right turns; left turns go last.
  • Traffic entering a roundabout technically has the right-of-way unless the entrance is marked with a Yield to roundabout sign (which it usually is).  (Footnote: you must use your turn signal when you exit a roundabout, but not as you approach or enter it as in some other countries.)
  • Emergency vehicles with a flashing blue light and siren sounding always have the right-of-way; you must pull-over to the right-hand side of the road when one approaches.
  • You should yield to streetcars at intersections.  Don't pass a stopped streetcar if it is discharging passengers directly onto the street; you may continue on after the doors have closed. 
  • Yield to buses leaving a marked bus stop.
  • On narrow road sections, the Right-of-way over oncoming traffic sign gives you the priority over oncoming traffic and the Yield right-of-way to oncoming traffic sign means you must yield to oncoming traffic.  On narrow mountainous roads, traffic going uphill has the right-of-way.
  • On roads where passing is difficult or not allowed, slower traffic is required to pull over when possible to allow faster traffic to go by (waysides are sometimes provided for this purpose.) 
  • Pedestrians always have the right-of-way when in a crosswalk.
  • Do not enter an intersection if traffic is backed-up on the other side of the junction, even if you have a green light.
  • Vehicles entering an Autobahn or expressway must yield to other traffic already on the main roadway.
  • Drivers must never assert their right-of-way-- safety takes precedence in all situations.

Speed limits

In Germany, there is a set of general or "default" speed limits (Geschwindigkeitbeschränkung). These are the limits you must obey in the absence of signs:

  Passenger vehiclesMotorcycles Passenger vehicle with trailer
Vehicles over 3.5tBuses
Vehicles over 3.5t with trailer Vehicles over 3.5t
>7.5t
Entering urban area
Within urban areas
50 km/h 50 km/h 50 km/h
Leaving urban area
Outside urban areas
100 km/h 80 km/h 60 km/h
AutobahnExpressway
Autobahns & Expressways
Recommended 130 km/h 80 km/h 80 km/h

Posted speed limits, of course, supersede the default limits.

Vehicles that are limited to a lower speed limit will usually have a decal resembling a speed limit sign displayed on the back of a vehicle indicating the speed it is authorized to travel depending on its specific characteristics.  In some cases, those vehicles may be authorized to travel slower or faster than the general limit and will display the appropriate decal indicating such.

Beware of Speed zone signs.  These indicate the speed limit for an entire neighborhood.  The speed limit on the sign remains in effect on all streets within the zone until you pass a End of speed zone sign.


Here are a few other points about speed limit signs to be aware of:

  • Although the speed limit cancellation sign End of speed limit will only show the last posted speed limit, it actually cancels all previous posted limits and indicates a return to the default speed limit for the road you are on.  For example: You're traveling down a rural road at the default speed limit of 100 km/h when you come to a Speed limit 80 km/h sign.  So you slow down to 80.  A kilometer or so later, you come to a Speed limit 60 km/h sign, so you slow down to 60.  After a while, you pass a End of speed limit sign.  What speed do you return to?  The answer is the default speed limit of 100 km/h.  The End of speed limit sign cancels all previous posted speed limits, not just the 60 km/h limit.

  • Whenever a speed limit sign is mounted beneath a warning sign, the speed limit only applies until you pass the hazard indicated on the warning sign.  For instance, if you you come to a Traffic signals ahead sign with a Speed limit 60 km/h sign below it, the 60 km/h speed limit is in effect only until you pass the traffic signals, after which you can then return to the default speed limit if no other speed limit signs are posted.

  • The End of all restrictions sign indicates the end of all previous posted speed limits and the end of any no passing zones.  However, remember that the default speed limit for that roadway still applies.

Other speed limits

  • When fog reduces visibility to less than 50 meters, the maximum speed you may drive is 50 km/h.

  • When a bus is stopped at a bus stop with its hazard lights flashing, traffic in both directions may only pass at a speed of 7 km/h or less (i.e. "walking pace"), although few drivers seem to observe this rule.

  • Whenever a child, elderly, or handicapped person is near the road, drivers are required to remove their foot from the accelerator and be prepared to stop.  German courts have upheld that the driver is ultimately responsible for preventing accidents in these situations no matter the actions of the pedestrian.


Passing/overtaking

Passing or overtaking is not permitted in the following situations:

  • When there is a solid white line on your side of the road and/or a no-passing sign No passing
  • At pedestrian crosswalks
  • At or on the approach to a railway crossing (i.e. between the initial warning sign and the crossing)

When passing another vehicle:

  • You may not exceed the speed limit
  • You must use turn signals before pulling out and again when returning to the right lane
  • You must return to the right lane as soon as safely possible without endangering or impeding the vehicle you are overtaking

Drivers being overtaken must allow plenty of space for the passing vehicle to complete their maneuver; they must slow down to accomplish this if necessary.  It is illegal to speed-up to prevent being passed.

Passing on the right is prohibited except on multilane roads (including the Autobahn) when traffic in the left lane is stopped or is moving at less than 60 km/h; in those cases, traffic in the right lane may not exceed 80 km/h.  Passing on the right is also allowed on roads controlled by traffic signals, although in practice traffic is typically traveling at less than 60 km/h in those cases anyway.

On roads where passing is difficult or not allowed, slower traffic is required to pull over when possible to allow faster traffic to go by (waysides are sometimes provided for this purpose.) 


Drinking & driving

The penalties for driving under the influence in Germany are harsh.  Severe penalties are assessed to first time offenders, usually including the suspension of your license.  Penalties for drunk driving now start with a blood alcohol limit as low as 0.03.  With the high alcohol content of German social beverages, it doesn't take long to hit the limit.  And, if you have an accident, the courts may determine whether alcohol was a factor even if your blood alcohol content is below the limit.  The best advice is this: if you drink AT ALL, don't drive!  Don't forget that driving under the influence of drugs (prescription or recreational) is also illegal.


Parking regulations

In Germany, you are considered "parked" if you leave your vehicle or if you stop/stand for longer than 3 minutes, unless you are actively boarding or discharging passengers or loading or unloading cargo.

You may not park:

  • Within 5 meters on either side of an intersection
  • In front of driveway entrances or exits, or on the opposite side of the street if the roadway is too narrow to allow vehicles to enter or exit the driveway
  • If parking will obstruct the use of marked parking places
  • Within 15 meters on either side of a bus or streetcar stop marked with a Bus or streetcar stop sign
  • Within 50 meters on either side of a Railway crossing sign when outside of urban areas or within 5 meters when inside an urban area
  • On a priority road outside of urban areas
  • In front of a curb-cut or wheelchair ramp
  • Adjacent to a traffic island or median
  • On the street side of another parked vehicle ("double parked")
  • On a marked bike lane
  • Anywhere there is a No parking sign on the same side of the street

You may not stop or stand (on the side of the road):

  • On narrow roads or in blind spots
  • Near sharp curves
  • On or within 5 meters approaching a pedestrian crosswalk
  • On railway crossings or tracks
  • In or adjacent to turn lanes (those marked with arrows on the pavement)
  • In front of and approaching a fire station driveway
  • Within a traffic circle or roundabout
  • At a taxi stand marked with a Taxi stand sign
  • On the Autobahn
  • Within 10 meters in front of Yield, Stop, or Railway crossing signs, or traffic signals, if parking would obstruct the view of the sign or signal
  • Anywhere there is a No stopping sign on the same side of the street

Except where prohibited (see above), on-street parking is generally permitted.  When you park, there must be a gap of a least 3 meters between your vehicle and the middle of the street or the nearest lane line.  In many places, you may park partially or entirely on the sidewalk to fulfill this requirement, but look for signs permitting this (or other vehicles doing so) before you do it.  If you do, make sure there is sufficient room for pedestrians on the sidewalk.  Vehicles over 2.8t may not park on the sidewalk.

You must park on the right side of the street unless:

  • You are on a one-way street and parking on the left would leave sufficient room for vehicles to pass.
  • There are rails along the right side.

You may not park, stop, or stand in a traffic lane if there is a shoulder or parking lane.

When parking on a street at night, you must use your parking lights unless you are parked near an all-night street light.  Street lights that do not remain on for the entire night are marked by a white and red band Streetlamp does not remain on all night around the lamppost.

The Parking sign indicates where parking is permitted on streets or gives directions to an off-street parking facility.  When used to mark on-street parking, it is usually accompanied by additional signs indicating when parking is permitted, who is permitted to park, or that the use of a parking permit, voucher, or disc is required.  For more information on finding parking in cities and using parking facilities, see the Driving & Parking in German Cities page.

Parking Control Zones
The Parking restriction zone sign indicates the entrance to an area or neighborhood where there is a general parking restriction.  All streets in the area are included in this restriction until the End of parking restriction zone sign is reached.

The Parking management zone sign indicates the entrance to an area or neighborhood where parking is permitted on all streets in the area with the use of a parking disc or voucher as indicated by a supplemental sign.  All streets in the area are included in this restriction until the End of parking management zone sign is reached.

Parking vouchers, discs, and meters
Signage for on-street parking may require you to use a voucher, disc, or meter to restrict the length of time you may park.  See the Driving & Parking in German Cities page for information on using each of these systems.

Violations
Parking fines generally range from €5-25 and if you are obstructing traffic or a driveway, your vehicle will, with great Teutonic efficiency, almost surely become the temporary property of the police.  In such an event, call the police to settle the situation.


Urban traffic regulations

The Entering urban areasign marks the entrance to an urban area.  Upon passing this sign, several special traffic regulations go into effect:

  • Speed limit: 50 km/h
  • You may not honk your horn except when necessary to avoid a collision.
  • Parking is prohibited within 5 meters of a railroad crossing.
  • You must ensure that your vehicle can be seen when parked at night.  This may require the use of parking lights if street lighting is inadequate or does not remain on all night. Such lights are marked by a red & white band Streetlamp does not remain on all night around the lamppost.

The Leaving urban areasign indicates that you are leaving the built-up area and its associated traffic regulations.  The following general regulations apply:

  • Speed limit: 100 km/h
  • Parking is prohibited on priority roads.
  • Parking is prohibited within 50 meters of a railroad crossing.
  • Disabled vehicles must be marked with a warning triangle.

Traffic calming zones

Traffic calming zones (Verkehrsberuhigtezone) are usually implemented on small residential streets.  The start of a traffic calming zone is marked by the Traffic calming zone sign and the End of traffic calming zone sign marks the end of such a zone.  Within traffic calming zones, the following rules apply:

  • Traffic must maintain the lowest possible speed-- no more than 7 km/h.
  • Pedestrians may use the entire street; children are permitted to play in the street.
  • Motorists may not endanger or hinder pedestrians; when necessary, motorists must wait.
  • Pedestrians may not unnecessarily hinder traffic.
  • Parking is not permitted outside of marked spaces except for boarding/discharging and loading/unloading.
  • When leaving the zone, you must yield to all other traffic.

Bicycle streets

Bicycle streets (Fahrradstraße) are the latest trend in traffic calming in Germany.  The entrance or beginning of a bicycle street is marked by the Bicycle street sign and the exit or end is marked by the Bicycle street sign.  These are typically narrow residential streets that provide connectivity between major roadways for cyclists.  In most cases, supplemental signs indicate that motor vehicles are also allowed on these streets, although frequently only in one direction (whereas bicycles can travel in both directions.)

The following rules apply on bicycle streets:

  • Only bicycles are permitted unless other vehicles are allowed by a supplemental sign. 
  • The maximum speed limit for all vehicles is 30 km/h.
  • Unless indicated otherwise, pedestrians, roller skaters, and small children on bicycles must use the sidewalk except when crossing the street.
  • Motorists may not endanger or hinder bicyclists; when necessary, motorists must reduce speed.
  • Bicyclists may ride 2 or more abreast.
  • Regular right-of-way rules apply.

Autobahn traffic regulations

Special rules apply when driving on the Autobahn.  These are listed on the Autobahn page.


Additional prohibitions

  • Use of mobile phones is prohibited while your vehicle is in operation.  The only time you are permitted to use a mobile phone is if you are parked and the engine is turned-off.  You may use a hands-free mobile phone when driving if it does not impede your hearing (i.e. one earphone only).
     
  • Vehicles with a gross permitted weight of 7.5 tons or more (with several exceptions) are prohibited from all public roads on Sundays and public holidays from 00:00 to 22:00.  This is to help prevent traffic jams.
     
  • Vehicles that have not passed an emissions test may be banned from the central area of cities during severe air pollution episodes.  When pollution reaches excessive levels, police set-up checkpoints marked with "SMOG" Smog signs along major corridors into the city.  Beginning in 2007, local governments were permitted to establish so-called "environmental zones".  Access to these zones, marked with "Umwelt Zone" Umwelt zone signs, is restricted to vehicles displaying one of the red, yellow, or green colored emissions stickers specified on the supplemental sign mounted below the main sign.  These zones may be permanent or may only be activated only during air pollution alerts.
     
  • Motorists are prohibited from unnecessarily revving their motors or slamming their car doors excessively.  It is also illegal to drive back and forth unnecessarily (i.e. "cruising") in towns.

Accidents

If the unfortunate should happen and you should be involved in an accident, the steps to take are basically similar to those in the US and most other places.  Here's a list of what you should do:

  • Stop immediately.  This also applies if you are not directly involved in the accident but are a witness.  Germany's Good Samaritan law also requires you to stop and render aid if people need help, even if you are not a party to or did not witness the accident.

  • Secure the accident site by switching on your hazard flashers (Warnblinklicht).  Place a warning triangle 100 meters behind the scene (200 meters on the Autobahn.)  (A good rule of thumb is that the black and white roadside markers are generally about 50 meters apart.)  If you have a safety vest (Warnweste; many cars now have them in their emergency kits), you should put it on.
     
  • If anyone is injured, call for an ambulance and the police.  From a phone booth or cell phone, dial 112; on Autobahns or other major highways, you can use the nearest emergency telephone-- the direction to the nearest one is marked by arrows atop the black and white posts along the roadside.  You are required by the German "Good Samaritan Law" to give first aid to any injured persons.  Remember that super-duper first aid kit you're supposed to carry?  This is where it comes in handy.  Do not move anybody that is injured unless it is absolutely necessary.  If there is a fire or spilled fuel, get everyone involved away from the vehicles and call the fire department (dial 112 or use an emergency phone.)
     
  • If nobody is injured, and the vehicles can be moved safely, you should mark the location of each vehicle, then move them out of traffic.  You can mark the locations either by drawing a diagram of the site and vehicles, taking photographs, or using "traffic chalk" to mark the physical locations of the vehicles on the pavement before you move them.  Many German automotive emergency kits have a stick of traffic chalk (it looks like a big yellow or white crayon.) 
     
  • Exchange information with the other drivers including your driver's license, passport, insurance green card, and rental information.  As a tourist, it is in your best interest to then call the police to the scene (if you haven't already) and have them take a report (dial 110 or use an emergency phone).  This ensures that all the proper legal requirements are satisfied and helps protect you from future problems.
     
  • The police may ask you or your passengers to make a statement regarding the circumstances of the accident.  You are not required to make a statement, but you still must provide valid identification and other legal documents (e.g. car registration, insurance, etc.) and must sign the accident report.
     
  • Do not sign any documents unless you know what you are signing.  Never sign documents from people (other than uniformed police) who mysteriously appear at an accident scene-- there have been reports of "helpful bystanders" (Unfallhelfer) who attempt to get those involved in an accident to sign powers of attorney, loan applications, and other dubious documents in the confusion.
     
  • If you damage an unoccupied vehicle, German law requires you to wait at the scene for at least 30 minutes for the owner to return.  If the owner does not return, you must then report the accident to the police in person.  As a tourist, it is probably best to call the police to the scene rather than go to a police station.  You might even want to do this immediately instead of waiting for the owner to return.
     
  • Once the police have cleared you, you can leave the scene.  If you are driving a rental car, you should contact the rental agency immediately to report the incident.  They will give you instructions on what to do next and will dispatch a tow truck if necessary.  If your accident happens on the Autobahn, your vehicle may be towed off the Autobahn immediately by the police.
     
  • If you need further legal assistance or advice after an accident, you should contact the nearest consulate or embassy.  If you are a member of the national auto club in your home country (e.g. AAA in the US), the German ADAC auto club may also be able to assist you as they have reciprocal agreements with most national auto clubs.

Other sites of interest

Official Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung (in German)
http://bundesrecht.juris.de/stvo/
 
Official traffic violation penalty catalog (in German)
http://www.bmvbs.de/Verkehr/Strasse-,1448/Bussgeldkatalog.htm
List of US states and Canadian provinces with reciprocal license agreements
http://www.fahrtipps.de/fuehrerschein/usa-kanada.php
(outdated as of 8/13/2010)
http://germany.usembassy.gov/acs/drivers_license/ (US states only)
List of other countries with reciprocal license agreements
http://www.fahrtipps.de/fuehrerschein/anlage_11.php


This page and all its contents are Copyright 2010 by Brian Purcell

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The information provided on this website is provided on an "as-is" basis without warranties of any kind either express or implied.  The author and his agents make no warranties or representations of any kind concerning any information contained in this website.  This website is provided only as general information.  The author expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based upon the information contained herein or with respect to any errors or omissions in such information.  All opinions expressed are strictly those of the author.  This site is not affiliated in any way with any official agency.