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Secrets of the Autobahn! 10 Driving Tips I’ve Learned in Germany

driving-in-Germany-Autobahn

Vroom, vroom! I’m so glad I didn’t have to learn to drive in Germany because I would have been terrified as a teen on the Autobahn in my ’89 Accord. (Remember your first ride?) Over the weekend, we drove from Zurich to Frankfurt, Germany to visit my in-laws. I was behind the wheel as we listened to the radio with breaking news about the refugee crisis and how they were finally arriving safely to cities throughout Germany.

We’ve driven countless weekends to Frankfurt as my husband and I switch off driving the 250 mile journey. Maybe my parents named me ‘Dale‘ for a reason because I’ve always loved to drive. Cruis’n World on Nintendo 64 was the only video game I ever enjoyed as a kid, I moved to SF with a stick shift (gulp), and was always the driver on family trips from Nor-Cal to LA. However, driving on the Autobahn in Germany is a different story. I wanted to share major differences and tips with you that can make driving a whole new experience in the US…

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  1. Buckle up & Grab a Snack – I’ll be your tour guide and speaking of seat belts – please always wear one – especially on the Autobahn. (PS – the Iphone diary for this post was all taken from the passenger seat. PPS – Have you ever had a Lion candy bar? I discovered it in Germany and they are SO good! )

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 2. Can you really drive as fast as you want in Germany? Yes, although there are speed limits on sections of the Autobahn. But when you see the sign above with the lines going through it, that means unlimited and there is ‘no speed limit‘ so you can go as fast as you want. But it doesn’t mean you should…

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3. Distracted Driving is a Huge Risk – This pic above was my very first time driving on the Autobahn a couple years ago. It was clear as soon as I finished my Red Bull and entered the road it was a NEW driving experience. When we made it to Zurich, I felt like I’d run 10 miles. It’s a mental and physical work out. I never glanced at my phone once, kept both hands on the wheel, and checked my mirrors constantly. You need to be fully alert because when you signal into the fast lane, there could be a Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini driving 175 mph (appox 280 km) coming up behind you. For the most part, people seem to drive faster, but safer, and one of the HUGE differences is...

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4. The Left Lane is for Passing – What a Concept!? – As I caught my husband mid window-wash in this pic, one of the most important rules in Germany is when you go to the left lane to overtake a car, you should pass and then get back over. It is ‘strictly forbidden‘ to pass on the right and people obey this! Unlike the US where cars pass on the right, because there are those drivers who don’t seem to understand the left lane is for passing. How annoying is it when a car just sits in the left lane going slow or tries to block traffic?

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5. Hazard Lights to the Rescue – Signs warn you with ‘Stau‘ (which means ‘traffic’ in German), but if the traffic suddenly comes to a stop, everyone puts on their hazard lights to warn drivers behind them. It seems like such a simple, safe idea to reduce those pile-up accidents. I’m not sure why it’s not ‘standard practice‘ in the US. Of course, accidents on the Autobahn do happen…

Neon-vests-Germany-Autobahn

6. Safety First in Neon – As we were driving along in traffic Sunday, there was a minor fender bender on the side. Both drivers exchanging information had on neon vests. A neon vest is required in every car in Germany (and Switzerland) to be worn by stranded motorists or accidents on the side of the road. After hearing about accidents in the US with people being hit on the side of the road by other motorists who didn’t see them, the neon vest seems like a good safety measure.

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7. What you Wear Matters – I used to drive in heels all the time in California, but I would never drive in stilettos, barefoot or flipflops on the Autobahn. Wearing regular shoes so you can hit the break instantly is so important with the speeds some people are driving.

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8. Big Rigs Can’t Drive on Sundays! – If you drive in the US, you know how frustrating it can be on a freeway when you’re stuck behind two big rig trucks passing each other. It can take for-ev-er. In Germany, trucks are NOT ALLOWED to drive on the Autobahn on Sundays (unless it’s perishable food). This really helps cut down on weekend traffic and allows the truckers to rest all day. And speaking of the truck stops…

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9. The Truck Stops Have Everything – Because the driving is so intense, it seems the rest stops are truly for ‘resting’ and taking a break from the road. They have restaurants, fancy salad bars, souvenirs, coffee shops, the cleanest bathrooms you’ve ever seen in a gas station and even an indoor smokers’ lounge which always makes me shiver a bit when I see these enclosed tiny rooms filled with cigarette smoke all over in Europe.

Speed-limit-Germany

10. You Won’t Get Pulled Over for a Ticket – There are some areas marked with speed limits where you need to go slower like above (120 km is about 75 mph) because of construction, traffic or weather. Usually, everyone slows down and respects it. After all, you know they’re posting ‘what’s safe for conditions‘ for a reason so you don’t crash. But if someone decides to speed through, there are cameras and a ticket will come in the mail. It’s safer because there aren’t traffic stops on the side of the road with other motorists flying by at 100 mph+. I’ve only seen the police on the Autobahn a handful of times – usually for accidents.

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What I LOVE Most about the Autobahn! – There is a completely different respect of the road. You see road rage occasionally with two cars competing to see who’s faster or someone blocking the fast lane. But for the most part, if a car is faster than you – just let them pass. If someone wants to drive dangerously fast (like this guy in a Lambo going 200 mph), people just get over. Driving is always risky, but with extremely well-cared for roads (I’ve never seen a pothole or litter all over the shoulders), added with the strict safety rules in Germany, driving is a LOT more fun.

Do you think the Autobahn with an ‘unlimited speed limit’ could ever work in the US?

~xo,

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10 Comments

Comments

  1. I don’t think I’d want to drive on the Autobahn! It sounds way to crazy for me. Bravo you. You look adorable doing it too:)

  2. Dale, this was so interesting! Did you have to get another drivers license (for that area)? That system wouldn’t last over here in the States (especially the driving whatever speed you want)! I love the Safety precautions they have in place. That would be great here. I love that they don’t have potholes and such. They really take great care of their roadways. Love the rest stops. So cool! Love hearing about your life and differences.
    http://www.averysweetblog.com/

  3. Dale, I shudder to think if the US or Canada allowed this, they don’t have a respect of the road, I do like that they mail the speeding ticket to them, hopefully they don’t cause and accident. I don’t drive due to the fact that other drivers scare the heck out of me… lol… and I only enjoy driving with a handful of people… xox

  4. I wish people in LA could take some tips from this! I almost got hit twice this morning already!!

  5. Driving on a road with no speed limit sounds a little scary to me but I love that no big rigs can drive on Sundays.

  6. Dale your Tips are perfect and made me remind of my childhood when I was used to spend my summertimes traveling by car in Germany, was so fun! I never drove there but Id love. I think speed limit are important everywhere though as it could be seriously very dangerous especially on motorway with trucks and high speedy cars. The stops were my fav things, they truly have everything and also many gourmand things. Your outfit is perfect for a road trip and looking so adorable. Oh Lion candy bar, love it too! Here we made also the ice-cream version! xo

  7. Great tips, Dale! I’ve experienced the autobahn, but never been the driver. I think it makes sense that drivers tend to take the experience of driving there so seriously. On my commute to work it feels like “text” alley on the freeway with all the college students heading to Butte College. That would NEVER happen on the autobahn!
    Happy weekend girlfriend!
    xx

  8. I loved the article. It reminded me of the good ol days I was a soldier in Germany.The roads over there are built for speed. I had friends that owned there own cars while we was stationed in Aschaffenburg, and it was so much of a ruch to run 140 +mph.But your so right about passing some oneand then getting back out of the fast lane. Because 140mph is not fast an the autobahn.

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  1. […] If 2.5 hours drive seems long a lovely friend of mine Dale from SavvySpice has written a super post Secrets of the Autobahn. […]

  2. […] If 2.5 hours drive seems long a lovely friend of mine Dale from SavvySpice has written a super post Secrets of the Autobahn. […]

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