Driving in Germany rules

January 14, 2016
Driving in Germany

All foreign licences are accepted for up to six months (or 12 months for a temporary stay only), but a translation may be necessary. If you want to continue driving after this period, you must obtain a German licence. These rules do not apply to driving licences issued in EU member states. Traffic offences are almost always fined and severe offences will lead to "points" being registered for your licence. Too many points will lead to your driving licence being confiscated. As this system can not be applied to foreign licences, fines for severe offences are often significantly higher for foreign drivers to make up for the lack of long-term control. Some severe infractions carry a driving ban (usually a couple of months) in addition to a fine and points. As the central registry that keeps track of the "points" is located in Flensburg, people say they have "Punkte in Flensburg".

  • Traffic Lights: Traffic lights are split for different directions, especially on large intersections: For one or more directions, an additional set of lights in the form of arrows regulates traffic in that direction. The non-arrowed light is for all other directions and traffic going straight ahead.

Turning right on red is not permitted except when a small green right arrow is affixed to the traffic light, right next to the red light. Then, you may turn right carefully, but you must still stop to make sure that there is no traffic or pedestrians approaching.

In many areas traffic lights are not hung over the intersection but placed at the corners. Do not creep into the intersection or you will not be able to see the lights change. A thick white stripe at intersections with traffic lights indicates where to stop. Many intersections use "self-regulating" traffic lights. The inductive sensor device used to determine if there's a car waiting is often located in the road surface in front of the white stripe mentioned above. Be sure to stop right in front of the this white stripe or the sensor might not recognise you. Lights will still turn green but you will have to wait quite a while longer.

Yellow lights are short in duration (2–3 sec.) and are also used prior to the light turning green (the sequence is green, amber, red, red-and-amber, same as in the UK). If the yellow light is flashing this means the traffic light either is defective or switched off (for example late at night or during weekends), and you then have to observe traffic signs or, if absent, the "right before left" rule. Driving through the lights at red carries a fine (up to €200) – and will not be anticipated by any other road users. Keep in mind that pedestrians - especially in cities - do jaywalk from time to time. This is especially common at tram (streetcar) or bus stops, where people race across the street to not miss their ride.

  • Mobile phones: Using your mobile phone while driving is forbidden, unless you use a hands-free set. This includes using the mobile phone while stopped at a traffic light, etc. It does not matter if you use the phone for making a call or just reading the clock: If you pick it up, you are violating the rule. This also means that using a navigation software on a smartphone is not allowed, unless the phone is mounted in the car. The police are quite strict about this. To legally use a mobile phone in a car the engine has to be switched off or the car has to be in a permanently parked position, e.g. just stopping at the side of the road will still lead to a fine.
  • Cyclists and road markings: Normal road markings are white. Yellow road markings invalidate any existing white markings, observe the yellow markings. Watch out for cyclists on sidewalk lanes, sometimes they are allowed to use the "wrong direction" lane (though many drive in "wrong direction" even if they are not allowed to do so). If a road crosses a bicycle lane (Radweg) it might have a red or blue color where it interjects with the bicycle lane or other special markings. Then, cyclists have right of way. If in doubt or there are no markings, its still a good idea to give right of way.
  • Pedestrian crossings: Stopping at "Zebrastreifen" (literally "zebra stripes") is mandatory when there are people waiting to cross the street and German drivers virtually always stop. Accordingly, many pedestrians will not wait for the car to stop before they use the pedestrian crossing. Not stopping can be charged with a €80 fine and four points.
  • Traffic Police: The police will show blinking signs reading "Polizei Halt" (police, stop) or "Bitte folgen" (please follow) if they want to stop you. An audible "yelp-signal" is currently being introduced. Stay calm and friendly, and hand over the driving license and car papers (if you rent a car, you will have a copy of the rental contract) when you are asked to. In most cases, that is all that happens, and if you respect traffic signs and speed limits, it is very unlikely that you get stopped at all. Take notice that the police car will usually stop you by passing your car and then slowing you down to a halt on the emergency lane or even on the sidewalk. However when a police car is behind you on a crowded street with oncoming traffic, flashing blue lights without sirens may prompt you to pull over as well. Particularly on the Autobahn, the police are less visible than in other countries, because they often patrol in civil cars.

The police may routine check vehicle drivers for alcohol; controls will be especially heavy at national holidays or close to mass events where people may consume alcohol. It's illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.05% (0.5‰ (permille)). Even below that limit, you may face severe fines if you seem unfit to drive. The limit is zero for people under 21 and those who have held their license for less than two years. If your license was recently renewed, it might be a good idea, if possible, to have a copy of your previous license.


If you are involved in an accident, immediately stop where it happened (except if you're on a Autobahn or some other multilane road). Carefully get out of the car and check for injured people and damage on the cars.

Source: en.wikivoyage.org
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