DRIVING THE AUTOBAHN | SPEED & SAFETY
AUTOBAHN | GERMANY
First things first - 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, local knowledge and respect for other drivers.
Check out the Autobahn & German Car Museums Driving Tour to enjoy effortless navigation with a pre-programmed GPS.
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 "Avus" also served as a race circuit and is today still in use as a stretch of autobahn. In our days the German highway system stretches over 13000 kilometers.
The biggest myth is that there are no speed limits on the autobahn. In reality today pretty much fifty percent of the autobahn network is subject to a speed limit. If you're planning to come to Germany to get the maximum out of your car – don’t even try. Always keep in mind that parents drive their kids on the autobahn. Should you have something else in mind then responsible driving - better consider a track where no other lives are at risk.
Once driving on the autobahn you will realize not every part of the German highway systems is derestricted. In fact the recommended maximum speed on the autobahn has been set to 130 km per hour by the German government. Derestricted stretches 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. But it doesn’t mean switch off your brain.
Drive the autobahn with caution and responsibly. Reckless driving and speeding at all cost is dangerous and will not be tolerated by authorities. Always keep in mind other drivers can easily report you.
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.