Road Rules and Driving Regulations
Find out about the key rules and regulations for driving in Germany...
Here are the most important rules for driving in Germany:
- Drive on the right in Germany
- Overtake to the left of the other vehicle in free flowing traffic. Overtaking on the right is only permissible in stationary traffic
- It is compulsory for a driver to have driving licence, car registration and ownership (Zulassungsbescheinigung Teil I und II) and insurance documents in the car. Valid German, EU, EEA and foreign driving licences represented by an international driving licence (IDP/IDL) are accepted in Germany
- Third party insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) is compulsory in Germany and is the minimum insurance requirement
- Motor vehicle tax (Kraftfahrzeugsteuer) is compulsory. It is payable for a year in advance at the request of the local tax office (Finanzamt)
- An environmental badge is compulsory for vehicles driving within Environmental Green Zones (Umweltzonen)
- It is illegal to drive while wearing headphones (Kopfhörer)
- Mobile cellular telephones may only be used with a "handsfree" system. Using a handheld mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle or bicycle is punishable with a fine and (if applicable) points on the driving licence
- Devices to evade police vigilance (such as radar detectors) are illegal and must be switched off if part of a Satellite Navigation system
- Winter tyres or all weather tyres are required to be fitted during winter in Germany. Snow chains are recommended for travel in mountainous regions and are legally required if there are signs depicting a tyre with snow chains. A 50 Km/h speed limit applies to vehicles with snow chains attached
- U-turns and stops may only be made in the event of an emergency or breakdown otherwise they are punishable by law
- Dipped headlights are compulsory when driving through tunnels
- Yellow headlights are illegal and dipped headlights must be used at night. It is illegal to use full beam headlights in urban areas
- If you're involved in an accident, it's illegal to leave the scene without getting help or offering assistance. If it's just your car in the accident, you must wait there for at least 30 minutes. Any driver involved in an accident must stop, secure the scene of the accident and call the police Tel:110. If there are injuries first aid must be provided at the scene and an ambulance called Tel: 112
A note for pedestrians: It is illegal to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing when the light is on red and the police will act if they witness this.
Legal driving age
- The legal age for driving is 17 years
Following the introduction of legislation in early 2009 the legal age for driving was changed from 18 years to 17 years was adopted throughout Germany with Baden Wuerttemburg being the last state to pass it.
- For the text of this new legislation: Click here (in German)
At the age of 16 and a half a person may register with a driving school to do a Class B or BE-type driving license. Once the theory test has been passed, the driving test can be taken at the earliest one month following the 17th birthday. Passing this test results in a test certificate (Prüfbescheinigung) as opposed to a regular driving license (Führerschein) being issued. This document is only recognised in Germany new drivers may not use it when driving in other countries.
New drivers reaching the age of 18 have a maximum of three months to apply for (and collect) a full driving license. During this three month period the driver may continue to drive with the test certificate and is permitted to drive unaccompanied. However, drivers should still not drive abroad during this three month period since the test certificate will not necessarily be recognised by other countries.
Rules for motorbikes
- Motorcyclists may carry children as passengers. Children under seven should have a child seat with foot supports and seatbelt. Children must also wear protective clothing and helmet
- Motorcyclists must ride with helmets and dipped headlights on at all times
Drinking and Driving
Drinking and driving is banned in Germany. In line with most of Europe the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.5grams of alcohol per litre of blood. For bus and truck drivers the limit is 0.2g/l. For new drivers with less than two years' driving experience there is a zero alcohol limit.
- Police have the power to carry out random alcohol testing on drivers suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol
- Anyone who refuses a breathalyser test will be taken to a police station for a blood test or medical examination
- A driver's insurance becomes void if they cause an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Drinking and driving rules also apply to cyclists
Wearing seatbelts (Sicherheitsgurte) is compulsory in the front seats of cars and, if they are fitted, in the back.
There are a few exemptions to this ruling when seatbelts need not be worn:
- vehicles which cannot travel over 20 Km/h
- a vehicle being reversed
- vehicles making house-to-house deliveries
- exemption on the grounds of a certified medical condition
- taxi drivers with passengers on board may drive without a seatbelt. If no passengers are in the taxi, then the driver must wear a seatbelt
Travelling with children
- Children under three may not travel in the front of a car
- Children under 12 or less than 1.5m tall (whichever they reach first applies) may not travel in the front seat unless they are seated in a child safety seat
- Child seats may not be used in the front of a vehicle if the airbag is active
It is illegal to transport children under the age of three in a vehicle which has no fitted seatbelts. Children travelling in a motor vehicle must have a child restraint. If three children are travelling in the rear of a vehicle and there is not enough room for three child restraints, an exception will be made. Drivers failing to ensure that all passengers comply with seatbelt regulations may be fined and points added to their licence.
Travelling with dogs
- It is recommended, but not compulsory, for dogs to be restrained when travelling by car. Insurance claims may be invalidated if an unrestrained dog is involved in an accident
Cars may not be washed in public places (such as at the roadside) unless there is a designated sign (Autowaschstraße or Waschplatz) and some Federal States even have restrictions on which days car washing is permitted.
Most garages have car washes (Autowaschanlage), but the vehicle must not be occupied when the carwash is in operation.