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Driving in Germany
When someone mentions driving in Germany, the car enthusiast automatically thinks of the famous fast-paced Autobahn. Even when you don’t speed along the Autobahn, driving around the country will be a pleasure due to its well-maintained and modern roads. Germany is a car-loving country - although you do not necessarily have to rely on your motor vehicle, especially if you live in a major city, most Germans have a driver’s license and 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.
Germany features nearly 650,000 km 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.
Taking the efficiency and popularity of the Autobahn among drivers and the central location of Germany within Europe into account, traffic jams are to be expected fairly regularly. The German broadcasting company has 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 delays and take alternative routes.
You may be interested to know that an Autobahn denominated with an even number runs in east-west direction, whilst one with an odd number runs from north to south and vice versa.
LEZ and ADAC
Germany attaches high importance to environmental protection and has thus introduced Low Emission Zones in almost all of its larger cities. Be careful to enter these zones if you are not properly registered and thus not permitted to use your motor vehicle in an LEZ. To find out where these so-called Umweltzonen are, take a look at the local map on the Federal Environmental Agency website. You can get an appropriate environmental badge that allows you to drive in LEZ at the technical inspection agency (TÜV). There are TÜV offices in every major German city.
With more than 18 million members in 2014, the German automobile club ADAC is the largest of its kind in Europe. If you plan on driving in Germany, it is highly recommended to become a member. The ADAC offers the following services, among others:
- Emergency roadside assistance
- Car insurance and many car and driver services
- National and international maps
- Information on toll roads in and sale of toll stickers for neighboring countries
Unfortunately, car accidents are not uncommon in Germany. Around 3,500 people died on Germany’s roads in 2013, and almost 300,000 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, provide first aid, secure the scene, and call an ambulance. If you feel incapable of administering first aid, we strongly recommend refreshing your knowledge before you start driving. The German Red Cross, for instance, offers first-aid courses for that very purpose.
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