Transport & Driving
Driving in GermanyiStockphoto
The German expressways (Autobahn) form the third largest road network of this kind worldwide - after the US and China.
When someone mentions driving in Germany, the car enthusiast automatically thinks of Germany’s famous fast-paced Autobahn. Even when you don’t speed along the Autobahn, driving in Germany will be a pleasure due to its well-maintained and modern roads. Germany is a car-loving country, whose inhabitants rely heavily on the use of a motor vehicle. Although driving in Germany is not essential, especially if you live in a major city, most Germans own at least one car.
It should come as no surprise that the country which makes world-renowned, popular cars and is the fourth largest producer of automobiles in the world has a corresponding quality in its roads. From the Autobahn cutting across the country to federal roads winding through hilly regions and bypassing quaint towns, driving in Germany is a real joy.
Driving in Germany: Road Network
Germany features over 644,480 kilometers of roadways, which are usually immaculately maintained. This may result in many construction sites, especially along the Autobahn. These are usually well marked, and detours are clearly signposted. Concerning the infrastructure of these famous expressways, they are among the few in the world which have neither a speed limit nor a toll. Rest areas are well equipped with restrooms, restaurants, and service stations, over 700 located along the 12,000 km of Autobahn, to be exact.
Since many people use the Autobahn for driving in Germany and if you take the central location of Germany within Europe into account, traffic jams are nothing extraordinary. The German broadcasting company has therefore implemented a radio frequency that automatically interrupts any program in order to announce recent traffic delays (Staumeldungen) on the Autobahn. This is very useful as it gives you the opportunity to avoid said delays and take alternative routes while driving in Germany.
Driving in Germany: LEZ and ADAC
Germany attaches high importance to environmental protection and has thus introduced Low Emission Zones in almost all of its larger cities. When driving in Germany, be careful to enter these zones if you are not properly registered and thus permitted to use your motor vehicle in an LEZ. To find out where these so-called Umweltzonen (low emissions zones) are, take a look at the local map on the Federal Environmental Agency website. You can get an appropriate environmental badge for driving in Germany’s LEZs at the German technical inspection agency (TÜV). There are TÜV offices in every major German city.
With about 17.5 million members in 2012, the German automobile club, the ADAC, is the largest automobile club in all of Europe. If you plan on driving in Germany, it is highly recommended to become a member. The ADAC provides emergency roadside assistance, offers car insurance, offers many car and driver services, supplies German federal maps as well as international maps, informs you of toll roads in and sells toll stickers for neighboring countries etc. All in all, the ADAC is an added bonus for expats driving in Germany.
Driving in Germany: Accidents
Unfortunately, car accidents (Autounfälle) are not uncommon in Germany. Around 4,000 people die on Germany’s roads every year, and almost 400,000 injuries caused by car accidents are reported annually. It is essential for you to know how to behave in case of an accident, as you may be held liable. Any errors on your part can lead to fines or to the loss of insurance coverage.
When you are involved in an accident, you must stay at the scene for at least 30 minutes. You are, however, not obliged to report accidents without injuries to the police. If there is no disagreement between the parties involved, it is usually sufficient to exchange names, addresses, registration numbers and insurance details. Taking pictures of the scene and the damaged vehicles is probably a good idea. However, you should refuse to sign any document admitting your guilt at the scene of the accident. This can cause trouble with your insurance company.
If there are injuries, you are obligated to offer your help, do first Aid, secure the scene and call an ambulance. If you feel incapable of administering first aid, we strongly recommend refreshing your knowledge. The German Red Cross, for instance, offers first-aid courses for that very purpose.