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Driving in Germany

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Information on driving licences, how and where to register your car and the most important safety and speed regulations on German motorways.

If you are travelling to Germany by car, you will enjoy the benefits of a highly modern, integrated road and motorway network. The German motorway (autobahn) network covers more than 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles). In addition to the autobahns, a network of provincial highways and secondary roads makes for easy access to all parts of Germany. Easy-to-understand international road signs are used throughout the country.

Driving licence
In 1996, EU Directive 91/439 was introduced, which stipulates that all driving licences have to be mutually recognised within the EU. Where the holder of a valid driving licence acquires “normal residence” in a member state other than that which issued the licence, the host country has to recognise the licence. If you wish, you may also exchange or renew your license with the German licensing authority, which may be necessary once you have acquired a German address.

It is not possible to change or renew your licence with the British DVLA once you have become a resident in another member state.

If you take up “normal residence” in a member state other than that which issued the licence, the host member state may enter on the licence any information needed for administration purposes an may apply its national rules on:

  • the period of validity
  • medical checks
  • tax arrangements
  • penalties
  • restrictions, suspensions, withdrawal or cancellation of the licence, and they may, therefore, require the original licence to be exchanged, if necessary.

For British citizens taking up “normal residence” in Germany, there are no such restrictions or requirements if they have had their driving licence for longer than two years. If this is not the case, the German authority will impose a two-year-probationary period in which case the driving licence has to registered with the relevant authority. Medical check-ups only apply to lorry drivers and have to be carried out every five years.

For more information please contact the Federal Ministry of Transport (see link below).

Registering a vehicle
Generally speaking there are no major differences between the two countries:

  • Obtain an insurance cover called “Doppelkarte”
  • Make an appointment with the local vehicle test service (TÜV) if the car is older than 3 years, the previous test certificate has expired or the car has been imported. The TÜV will examine the vehicle to ensure that it compies with the applicable safety regulations and issue a certificate.
  • Go to the local licensing office (Strassenverkehrsamt). Two registration documents (Fahrzeugbrief and Fahrzeugschein) stating the present owner and the registration number will be issued. Obtain the registration plates at a especially authorized shop in the vicinity of the local licensing office.
  • The plates show the registration number, seal of issuing licensing office and the month and year of the next safety inspection.

Speed limits
Unless indicated, there is no speed limit on the autobahn. The recommended speed limit for passenger cars without trailers is 130 km/h (78 mph). Cars towing trailers are limited to 80 km/h (48 mph). On regular highways, the speed limit is 100 km/h (60 mph), and in cities, towns and villages 50 km/h (30 mph), unless posted differently.

Safety regulations

  • Seat belts must be worn at all times in both the front and back seats.
  • Drivers and passengers of two-wheel vehicles going faster than 24km/h (14.4 mph) must wear helmets.
  • Passing is permitted on the left side only.
  • Children 12 years and younger are not allowed to ride in the front seat when the vehicle has back seats.
  • Children under 4 must sit in a car seat. Children up to 12 are required to sit on car booster seats, so that the car's regular seat belts can be used safely.
  • Drinking and driving is prohibited, with the blood-alcohol limit at 0.05 percent.
  • Low-beam headlights are required at night and during fog, heavy rain and snow falls.
  • Driving with parking lights is strictly prohibited.

Roadside emergency services
German automobile clubs offer 24-hour breakdown and towing services as well as highway patrols. Emergency call boxes are installed at regular intervals along the autobahns.

Emergency paging
The ADAC automobile club offers an emergency paging service, called ADAC Reiseruf, which is broadcast on the regular road -condition broadcasts of public radio stations. The radio channels are indicated on signs along the autobahn. If you need to page someone urgently, call an ADAC office or the police,who will forward your message for broadcasting.

Petrol
Getting petrol at self-service stations and off the autobahn cuts down costs.

Types of gasoline are:

  • Regular Unleaded (Normal Bleifrei)
  • Super Unleaded (Super Bleifrei
  • Super Plus Unleaded (Super Plus Bleifrei)
  • Diesel

Non-German vehicles have to have a nationality sign, e.g. a GB sticker, at the back of the vehicle.

A Green Card and Motor Insurance certificate is recommended. Motorists should carry evidence of motor insurance (insurance certificate). A Green Card provides additional proof that the minimum legal third party cover is held. For further advice please contact your insurance company.

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