Rules for Driving in Germany

November 5, 2018 in Destinations, Tips for Travellers, Germany & Driving rules

Germany is one of the best countries for a road trip, due to the close proximity of the cities and the wonderfully high speed limits on highways! But when entering another country, it is vital to inform yourself of the rules and regulations, to avoid a run in with the law from disrupting your holiday. So we’ve collected everything you need to know for driving around Germany, including an explanation of German road signs!

Goboony Driving Rules Germany H2 Road Car Forest

1. License

Before we even get to driving in Germany, we’ve got to consider the necessary documentation to get you there! If you’re just visiting Germany and not establishing residency there, then your own driver’s license from home is valid for the duration of your stay. If you plan to move there, your driver’s license will be valid for six months from the date of permanent residency being established. After this you’ll require a German driver’s license. Any European driver’s license should be fine for visiting, but if you’re doubting it, you can check the exact requirements here. If your license does not have the necessary attributes, you can carry an official translation of the license called an International Driving Permit. You can purchase these easily from your home country or in Germany from an ADAC automobile club.

2. General Rules

  • German law sets the minimum age to drive as 18.

  • Traffic drives on the right of the road, and passes on the left.

  • Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers in the vehicle, and children under 12 years old or shorter than 1.5 metres may not sit in the front seat. The only exception to this is if they’re in an approved child safety seat, and there is either no room in the back seat or no back seat at all. But you may not use a child safety seat in the front seat if there is an active airbag.

  • All drivers must have third-party liability insurance, and should carry proof of that insurance at all times. You should also carry proof of ownership, in the form of registration or rental papers, at all times.

  • All vehicles must contain a warning triangle (Warndreieck), safety vest (Warnweste) and highway first aid kit (Pkw- Verbandkasten).

  • It is illegal to drive only using your parking lights, you must use your headlights during inclement weather and at night.

3. Toll Roads in Germany

As of July 2019, Germany will introduce the first diesel ban on a German Autobahn. This will occur on the A40, that runs through the city of Essen. However, the government of the German federal state of Nordrhein Westfalen has announced their plan to appeal against the decision. The gravity of the verdict has come as quite a surprise to the government. 

Goboony Driving Rules Germany H2 Girl Car Road

4. Fines

This is an important difference within German law and those of neighbouring countries, as the police are permitted to collect fines for most minor traffic offenses on the spot. These are called verwarnungsgeld, and you will always receive a receipt for the payment. If you don’t have enough cash with you, you can usually pay the fine with a credit/debit card. If you are either unable or unwilling to pay (which is your legal right!), your vehicle could be impounded, or you’ll most commonly just be issued a citation to appear in court at a later date. But note that you could be assessed a higher fine when you go to court, and some fines are based on your income.

Here are some of the things you could be fined for…

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs - a big no no! Penalties for drunk driving begin with a blood alcohol limit as low as 0.03. Be sure to keep in mind that German alcoholic beverages usually have a high alcohol content, so it doesn’t take long to reach the limit. Even if your alcohol content is below the limit, a court may rule an accident you’re involved in as your fault for being under the influence at all. Drive safely and soberly!

  • Leaving the scene of an accident, even if you only witness it, play it safe and stay. Or be the one to call the police! Here is a list of numbers for emergency situations.

  • Illegal passing, U-turns and wrong-way driving/ backing-up in the Autobahn are also all fine-worthy offences in Germany. They can also catch you for failure to yield the right-of-way and reckless driving. German police are especially observant of any speeding, so be sure to check out the speed limit at all times!

5. German Road Signs

Luckily, German road signs don’t really differ from their European neighbours too much. There are the usual ones, such as the yellow “priority road” diamond, red “stop” sign and triangular “yield” sign. The only difference compared to some places is in their traffic signals, asto turn right at a German traffic light, it must have a green arrow next to the signal. If a right on red is permitted, you must ensure you first come to a complete stop and yield to all other traffic, including pedestrians! Here you’ll find a detailed list of all the German road signs you may encounter.

6. Overtaking

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know how to drive and know the rules of passing. But be aware that it really can differ between countries, so just to be safe here is a list of the times when passing or overtaking is not permitted in Germany:

  • If there is a solid white line on your side of the road.

  • If there is a “no passing” sign, which consists of a red and black car in a red outlined circle.

  • At pedestrian crosswalks.

  • At, or even on the approach, to a railway crossing. This is mainly between the initial warning sign and the crossing.

  • When passing on the right, except on multilane roads such as the Autobahn.

When passing another vehicle, keep the following things in mind:

  • You must not exceed the speed limit.

  • Before pulling out, you must use turn signals, and again when returning to the right lane.

  • You must return to the right land as quickly and safely as possible, ensuring you do not endanger or impede the vehicle that you are overtaking.

Goboony Driving Rules Germany H2 Dog Car

7. Parking Regulations

When driving in Germany, you are considered “parked” if you leave your vehicle or stop/stand for longer than three minutes. The only exception to this is if you are actively boarding or discharging passengers, or loading/unloading any cargo.

Here is a list of the basic places you may not park:

  • Within 5 metres of an intersection.

  • If it blocks driveway entrances or exits.

  • If parking there will obstruct the use of marked parking places.

  • Within 50 meters of a “railway crossing” sign outside of urban areas, and 5 meters when inside an urban area.

  • Within 15 meters of a bus stop marked with the “H” sign.

  • On a priority road when outside of urban areas.

  • On the street side of an already parked vehicle - also known as “double parking”.

  • On a marked bike lane.

  • Anywhere with a “no parking” sign!

8. Other Tips!

  • This may be quite obvious, but just in case this differs from your home country… always lock your vehicle and take the keys whenever you leave it!

  • It is commonly advised in Germany to leave your doors unlocked while driving to facilitate rescue in the circumstance of an accident.

  • Be careful for bike paths, these are carefully signed and cars are not permitted on them under any circumstances!

  • Keep an eye out for the yellow “entering urban area” sign that marks the entrance, as after this the urban specific traffic regulations go into effect. This includes a speed limit of 50 km/h and only honking your horn when necessary to avoid a collision.

Goboony Driving Rules Germany H2 Berlin Brandenburg Gate

You’re ready to drive in Germany, now that you know your Warndreieck from your Warnweste - or at least have somewhere to look it up easily! Now that you’re fully informed, all that is left is to find the vehicle to cruise the Autobahn on, and what could be better for that then a gorgeous motorhome to double as accommodation? Do a quick search on Goboony and find your ideal motorhome to rent today!