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Driving in Germany

Germany

The rules of the road for drivers visiting Germany

A common worry for drivers heading across the channel is the possibility of accidentally breaking the local rules of the road and getting fined. The rules of the road including basics like speed and drink drive limits can be different from home, so it pays to get to know the local rules before you go.

Our general advice for motoring in Europe covers the basics like documents, personal safety and vehicle preparation.

In this article:

Driving licence
Motor Insurance
Fuel
Speed limits
Seat belts and children in cars
Lights
Motorcycles
Drinking and driving
Fines
What do you have to carry?
Winter
Tyres
Low Emission Zones
Other rules and advice

 

 

Country by country

Driving licence

You must be at least 18 years old to drive a temporarily imported car or motorcycle.

Motor insurance

You must have a minimum of third-party cover.

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Fuel
  • Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane) and diesel are available
  • LPG is available from more than 5000 stations
  • Leaded petrol isn’t available, but you can buy lead substitute additive

You may carry up to 10 litres of petrol in a can in Germany, but not on-board ferries.

Most filling stations accept credit cards, but we’d still recommend checking with your card issuer for use in Germany before travel.

E10 (petrol containing 10% Ethanol) is widely available and pumps are clearly marked.  E10 isn’t suitable for all vehicles so check with your car manufacturer if you’re not sure you can use it.

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Speed limits

(Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers)

  • Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
  • Outside built-up areas 62 mph (100 km/h)
  • Dual carriageways 80 mph (130 km/h) (recommended maximum)
  • Motorways 80 mph (130 km/h) (recommended maximum)

You may only drive on German motorways if your vehicle has a design speed of more than 37mph (60 km/h)

In bad weather (visibility below 50m) the maximum speed limit is 31 mph (50km/h).

If you’ve got snow chains fitted the maximum speed limit is 31mph (50 km/h).

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Seat belts

Front and rear seat occupants must wear seat belts if fitted.

Passengers/children
  • Children aged under 12 and less than 1.5m tall must be seated in a suitable child seat/restraint.
  • You may not carry a child in a rear-facing child seat in the front unless any passenger airbag has been deactivated.
  • The driver is responsible for making sure that all children are safely restrained.

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Lights
  • Dipped headlights or daytime running lights are recommended during the day
  • You must use dipped headlights during the day if fog, snow or rain restricts visibility
  • You must not drive with sidelights (parking lights) alone
  • You must use dipped headlights in tunnels.
Motorcycles
  • Dipped headlights must always be on
  • Riders of motorcycles and mopeds must wear a crash helmet.
  • You must wear a crash helmet when riding a trike or quadbike capable of more than 20 km/h unless seat belts are fitted and worn.

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Drinking and driving
  • The legal limit is 49 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
  • Penalties include fines and being banned from driving in Germany.

If you’re under 21 or have held your licence for less than 2 years, there is a zero limit and you could be fined €250 if even a small amount of alcohol is detected.

Fines
  • Fines can be on-the-spot or in the form of a deposit, if you refuse to pay your vehicle can be confiscated.
  • You could be fined for many offences including speeding, using abusive language and making derogatory signs.
  • Wheel clamps aren’t used in Germany but vehicles causing obstruction can be towed away.

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What do you have to carry?
  • Warning triangle - not compulsory but recommended as all drivers must signal their vehicle in case of breakdown. Carrying one is compulsory for German residents
  • First aid kit and reflective jacket - not compulsory but recommended because they’re also compulsory in German-registered vehicles
  • Spare bulb kit – recommended
Winter

Vehicles in Germany must be equipped to suit the weather conditions so you must adapt your vehicle to winter weather conditions, if required. This includes but is not limited to the use of a suitable additive in windscreen washer fluid and winter tyres.

Tyres

Vehicles must be adapted to suit the weather conditions, and this includes the requirement that you mustn’t use summer tyres in Germany during winter weather conditions – standard tyres fitted in the UK are generally summer tyres.

  • Germany’s winter tyre regulation applies to all motorised vehicles using roads in Germany including those registered abroad.
  • Winter weather conditions include black ice, snow, ice, slush and frost which may be present even if the temperature is above 0C.
  • Winter, or all-season tyres designed for use in wintry conditions will normally be marked with ‘M+S’, a snow flake or snowy mountains symbol.

If your car’s only fitted with summer tyres you can’t drive in winter weather conditions and could be fined €60 just for doing so and €80 if you actually obstruct traffic. You could also be prevented from continuing your journey unless you get the tyres changed or the weather conditions improve.

  • You must not use spiked tyres
  • In extreme weather snow chains may be required too

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Low Emission Zones

Many German cities operate environmental zones (Umwelt ZONE) restricting access by older vehicles based on their date of first registration and Euro emissions standard. Motorcycles are not affected.

Vehicles must display a ‘Plakette’ (sticker) the colour of which indicates the vehicle’s emissions standard.  Local signs indicate the minimum standard (colour) allowed entry without penalty.  Most cities now only allow access to vehicles with a green, category 4 sticker.

Sticker categories:

  • Category 2 – Red (Euro 2)
  • Category 3 – Yellow (Euro 3)
  • Category 4 – Green (Euro 4)

It’s likely that a Blue (Euro 6) sticker will be introduced along with Low Emission Zones restricting access to all but the latest Euro 6 diesel vehicles.

  • Restricted areas are indicated by signs “Umwelt ZONE” 
  • It’s best to get order your sticker online before you go – allow plenty of time
  • The fee is a one-off charge and the sticker is valid in any German City LEZ
  • The sticker includes the vehicle’s registration - you can’t transfer it to another vehicle
  • Maps and detailed information of the environmental zone areas.

If you’ve not got time to get the sticker before you travel, there are lots of testing stations in Germany where you can get one.  Given a postcode or street name the Dekra website will show you the nearest testing station operated by Dekra (this section of the DEKRA website is only available in German.)

Other rules/requirements in Germany
  • If you’re driving a slow-moving vehicle you must stop at suitable places and let others pass.
  • You must not overtake or pass a school bus that is approaching a stopping point (indicated by flashing hazard lights) and could be fined for doing so.
  • If you have a GPS or Satnav system that can show the location of speed cameras, then this function must be disabled or the system must not be carried.
  • The use of radar detectors is forbidden

This sign means that you must not drive faster than walking pace – The walking pace speed has not been legally established but it’s no more than 7kph.

Germany walking pace sign

 

 

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5 July 2019

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