So you think you are Lewis Hamilton, do ya? Well, welcome to a country that allows you to drive as fast as you want. Oh yes, as fast as you want! We can certainly tell you that driving in Germany is not only a privilege, it is a joy.
The German Autobahn does have a fascination attached to it. It's a mix of legends and speed fantasies about the autobahn that are far from reality.
This will maybe come as a surprise to some readers, but as a matter of fact — the German highway system is not a high-speed playground for speed enthusiasts. It is a road system that serves the public and economy.
Germany is a transit country and traffic can get really heavy at certain times and popular stretches of highway. Traffic jams are common especially near big cities. To make the German highway system a pleasant driving experience it needs good planning, at least some research and a sense for safety.
The first official stretch of the autobahn system in Germany has been completed in 1934 between Bonn and Cologne. Giving Hitler and his regime credit for the autobahn system in Germany is nothing else then Nazi propaganda that still has not vanished.
In fact the first highway was built already between 1913 and 1921 near Berlin and was an experiment. The so called Avus also served as a race circuit and is today still in use as a stretch of autobahn. Today’s German autobahn system stretches over 12,993 km / 8,073 miles according to 2016 data.
AUTOBAHN SPEED LIMIT
How fast can you go on the autobahn?
The German government recommends a maximum speed on autobahns of 130 kph / 80 mph per hour, but lets drivers go as fast as they want. However in some areas the speed limits are significantly lower than "as fast as you want" kph.
In reality today pretty much fifty percent of the autobahn network is subject to a speed limit. Mostly around towns, narrow sections and otherwise dangerous areas speed limits are guaranteed. However till this day, Germany is the only country in the world where no general speed limit apply on motorways. But that could change quickly.
Over the years there have been countless efforts to the sensitive subject of introducing a speed limit for the German freeways. So far all efforts have ended without result since politicians fear loosing votes and the support of the powerful car lobby in Germany.
Freedom too many Germans often means driving fast. Almost like the right of owning a gun in the United States. Both can be dangerous.
But German drivers at least go through a strict licensing test system with lessons, including driving on the actual autobahn and learn under real conditions what high-speed driving means.
On top of that there is an incredibly difficult multiple choice exam and the road test. Failing it at the first attempt is common. Also cars are required to have regular inspections to ensure they are safe to use on German roads.
While safety always has been argument number one to set up an autobahn speed limit, in the latest efforts climate change is playing a role to implement the change.
Very likely this might be the key and finally lead to a speed limit, since Germans vote more and more green. Even Germany's biggest motoring association, the ADAC, has softened its stance against a general speed limit.
As for now derestricted stretches still exist and are marked with the “end of all speed bans” sign, which is a white round sign with four thin lines crossing over it. Once you’ve seen one, it only means you can go as quick as you desire.
Endless debates in online forums worldwide have tackled the issue of when and where to drive the German autobahn and reading through those endless comments makes one thing very clear - the question is not easy answered.
Constant road updates and constructions are necessary to keep the autobahn in tact. What looks perfect for driving today, can be a total traffic trap tomorrow.
The obvious is to avoid the coldest month of the year, which are: December to February – nobody wants a holiday on ice kind of driving experience.
However, it has to be said – no matter how well you research: the perfect stretch of autobahn simply doesn’t exist. And the credo of everyone planning to drive the autobahn should be: make the autobahn part of the journey and not the main attraction of your trip.
Again, the official advisory speed limit by the German government of 130 kmph is not binding unless indicated otherwise. Whenever you see the round end-of-all-bans sign with three black lines over a white background – the road is yours.
But keep in mind that for the car you approach on the autobahn with anything above 100 kmph you appear in the back mirror out of nowhere. Also in Germany, reckless driving has consequences. With this being said, here the answer to the most asked question about the autobahn:
Where does the autobahn have no speed limit?
A14 — between Leipzig and Dresden
A44 — between Dortmund and Kassel
A24 — between Berlin and Hamburg
A09 — between Berlin and Leipzig
A06 — between Frankfurt and Freiburg
A07 — between Aalen und Wuerzburg
A20 — between Luebeck and Greifswald
The longest de-restricted stretch of autobahn is 150 kilometers long on the A24 between Hamburg and Berlin. Travelling at the recommended speed of 130 kmph the journey would be completed in a little over an hour.
But it doesn’t mean switch off your brain. Always keep in mind that parents drive their kids on the autobahn.
Beside the good road quality of Germany's highway network and only a few speed limits on the autobahn there is another reason making Germany so popular for driving: it shares border with nine other countries. It is the absolute norm to see cars on plates from all over Europe using Germany as a transit route.
While Germans pay tolls everywhere else once they cross on of those border – Germanys road system remains free for vehicle below 7,5 tons.
There have been efforts to implement a toll on the German Autobahn. But because the government planned to charge only foreigners and pay Germans the money back over the vehicle tax an EU court ruled against it. Even so Germany is surrounded by countries charging for the use of their highways. For that reason as of now only trucks need to pay.
Should you have something else in mind then responsible driving — consider driving on a racetrack where you can kill only yourself. Drive the autobahn with caution and responsibly.
Police is rarely seen on the autobahns. But reckless driving and speeding at all cost is dangerous and will not be tolerated by authorities.
Always keep in mind German drivers love to report tourists using the autobahns as speeding tracks. If tourists rent from one of the big car rental companies they can sometimes assume by their car plates, the driving style and a barcode on the windows that you most probably a tourist.
Here are a few safety rules drivers should follow at all times, that should safe you from being arrested:
Rule No. 1 always has been: overtaking on the right is strictly forbidden.
The left lane is the fast lane. It is illegal to use this lane if you don’t overtake slower traffic at the time. Once you have completed the overtaking process move back into the right lane. In general you can say overtaking is completed once you get a full frontal view of the overtaken car in your rear-view mirror.
Every driver in Germany learns a simple method to keep the right distance. Fix a point on the roadside and start counting: “21,22” when the car in front has reached that point. If you reach that point before you’ve finished counting your distance is too small.
If someone behind you flashes his beams you’re probably are too slow and hold up faster traffic. Swallow your ego and move back onto the right. Don’t get angry, there will always be somebody feeling more confident than you do.
This is essential! Every time you change lanes, do yourself a big favour and perform the “Schulterblick” – means: always take a look over your shoulder and check for oncoming traffic from behind. At the same time check your side- and back mirror before making any dangerous moves. Avoid missing any AMG Mercedes or Porsche driving into your blind spot with 200+ km per hour.
Use your indicators. Whenever you have to break hard or you approach the end of a traffic jam make sure you use your hazards lights to warn drivers behind you and they have a chance to slow down.
Obey the speed limits. Driving at a high speed should not result in missing upcoming road signs, by no means you should miss any of them - if you did you've been too fast.
Go with the flow. If you’re a newcomer to the autobahn simply blend in with the traffic and do what the locals do. That way you might also avoid an expensive souvenir produced by a speed camera.
Take a break every now and then. Rest your eyes, drink a coffee and visit the bathroom. Every 40-60 kilometres apart you will usually find a gas station, restaurant or simply a bathroom to take a break. Don't drive a long distance until you run out of fuel.
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