Partial reciprocity agreements (exemption from the road test) have been approved for
- North Carolina
- District of Columbia
License holders from these states should also approach their local Stadtverwaltung (Führerscheinstelle) to submit an application for a German license and to be registered for the written test. The test can be taken in English, costs approximately EUR 40, and includes a separate test of German license-related vocabulary.
Every effort has been made to make this information sheet factual and useful. It will be republished periodically as facts and conditions change. However, final authority on driving in Germany rests with the German Ministry of Transport
Registration of your Car
The title (Fahrzeugschein) must always accompany the driver in the car; however you should not leave the registration in your unattended automobile.
All cars receiving German plates must be registered and pass the Technical Inspection (TÜV) within 90 days of the car’s arrival in Germany.
“D” decal Deutschland. You must display the “D” decal on the rear of your car when traveling outside Germany.
German law requires that all automobiles be equipped with:
- a triangle caution sign
- a first aid kit (DIN number 13164). First aid kits are available at the ADAC or German service stations.
Car Inspection (TÜV)
German law requires that all automobiles be inspected once every two years by the Technical Inspection Association (TÜV). Fees apply.
- Bi-annual inspection
- Reinspection after failed inspection
- Penalties for overdue inspection
Vehicle inspection is certified by an inspection decal affixed to the rear license plate. The number in the small inner circle indicates the year that the car is next due for inspection (e.g. 04) The outer circle shows the number of the month that vehicle is due for inspection (e.g. 10). This example would then indicate that the vehicle is due for TÜV in October (10), 2004 (04).
If your automobile is due for an inspection, you should have the dealer, a local service station or an auto repair shop check your car and repair any defects prior to the TÜV inspection.
German law requires that all registered automobiles carry third-party liability insurance.
Note: Every accident must be reported, without exception, immediately to the insurance company.
There are approximately 130 providers of automobile insurance operating in Germany. The willingness among these firms to reduce premiums for safe driving records compiled in the U.S. varies considerably. Firms in Germany are not obliged to reduce premiums for safe driving histories compiled outside Germany, though many in fact will do so. In applying for car insurance, the U.S. Embassy encourages consumers to comparison-shop among a variety of insurers.
Driving in Germany
Driving in Germany can be both an exhilarating and frustrating experience. In a country renowned for its high performance cars and high speed Autobahns, Germany hosts more traffic volume than any nation in Europe and, as a result, suffers the Continent’s highest injury-accident rate. Many German traffic regulations differ a great deal from those observed in the United States. It is essential for safety sake to know this rules and to be familiar with the international road signs. Some of the most important regulations and driving tips are discussed below. You can also see more extensive information about German traffic regulations and traffic signs. Overview of fines for traffic offenses by German automobile Club (ADAC).
Speed limits are 50 km per hour in cities and towns and 100 km on the highway unless otherwise marked; there is no speed limit on the Autobahn, except where marked (but a top speed of 130 km is recommended by the German authorities).
To convert kilometers to miles; drop the 0 and multiply by 6, e.g. 40 km equals 4×6 or roughly 24 miles.
Before pulling into the left lane to pass, check the rear view mirror very carefully as far back as you can see. Cars traveling at 160-180 km per hour approach suddenly, so when passing, do so quickly and then quickly return to the right lane. Some impatient drivers flash their headlights, use their blinker, and tailgate to pressure slower cars ahead into moving out of the way. These practices have been outlawed recently, and it is best to ignore this behavior if it is directed at you. (Within the city a driver may flash his lights at you as a signal that you may turn into the street or turn left across his lane of traffic, but do so with caution.)
In case of a breakdown, look for arrows at the top of the white posts lining the road. They’ll lead you to the nearest emergency call box, located every 1 1/2 to 3 km along the Autobahns. Merely lift the handle and an operator will answer. Most of the operators speak English or will connect you with someone who can. A booklet published by the German Autobahn Authority which includes maps of Germany, rest areas and locations of autobahn service stations is available from them.
Use of Seat Belts and Airbags
The use of seat belts is mandatory both in the front and back seats. If your seat belts are not fastened and you are stopped, you can be fined EUR 30, in case of an accident, you run the danger of invalidating your insurance. Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to ride in the front seat of the car and using a children’s safety seat is mandatory for each child in the car. This could also cost you a fine of EUR 30.
Drinking and Driving
German law concerning what constitutes driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is different than American law. It must be understood, however, that there are many variables which alter the effects of alcohol upon a person, i.e., weight of the person, type of alcoholic beverage consumed, etc. It is therefore difficult to list all conditions and aspects of what constitutes drunken driving.
The important thing is NOT TO DRINK AND DRIVE.
Under German law it is illegal to operate a vehicle if the blood level is 0.5 per mill or higher. The law imposes a penalty and the withdrawal of the drivers license for specified periods of time depending upon the gravity of each violation.
Right of Way
Vehicles coming from the right have the right of way unless signs are posted otherwise. Pedestrians have the right of way as soon as they step into the crosswalk. Beware of cyclists on the bike paths, particularly when you are making a right turn.