During my first trip to Germany I was greatly intrigued by the notion of “The Autobahn”. It sounded so mysterious and well, fast. In retrospect, my impression of it was only partially true. In my studies with the German language I learned that “Autobahn” simply means highway in German. So when people ask me if I “drove on the Autobahn” I am not entirely sure how to respond, so I just nod and say yes.
I’ve lived in Germany off and on over this past decade and I’ve learned a thing or two about driving on “The Autobahn” safely and effectively. So, if you are traveling to Germany or planning to move there, these tips will go a long way to making sure you have a safe and fun experience on the German highways.
Yes, It Can Be Fast
The reputation that the Autobahn has is that it is a fast highway with no speed limit. While there are quite a few stretches of road that enjoy this perk, there are also places where there is a speed limit. Around and through big cities, for example, almost always have speed limits and so do construction zones. Pay attention to the speed limit signs.
Speed Limit Signs
The speed limit signs are round. They have the speed limit in the middle and the sign itself is rimmed by a red circle. This means that you absolutely need to follow this speed limit. When the restriction is lifted, you’ll see a sign that looks similar but it has a line through it. Unless another speed limit sign follows it, it is safe to assume that there is no speed limit at this point.
Don’t Pass on the Right
It is absolutely forbidden to pass another motorist when you are in the right hand lane. If you need to pass a truck or a slow driver, enter into the next lane to do it. This is a fixed rule of the road and is strictly adhered to. The only time you can go faster than the cars to your left is if you are in an exit lane. This rule also doesn’t apply to stop and go traffic.
Get Out of the Way
As someone who drives a fast car, I know how important it is. Sometimes I fly down a stretch of highway going at least 120 mph, sometimes even more. And yes, during these stretches it is perfectly legal. Every now and then a motorist who wants to pass a truck gets in the left lane and takes their sweet time.
The bad thing is that they change lanes without seeing me and I need to slam on the breaks. If you get in the left lane just be aware of your environment. You have three choices – get out of the way of the fast cars, become one of the fast cars, or simply wait for the faster ones to pass before you get into the lane.
These are just some guidelines to get you started. I included a link with some traffic rules. You should at least skim them and become familiar with the signs before you travel to Germany. Germans are rule followers and slip-ups from not knowing the rules of the road are not all that well received.