Radar detectors allowed in Germany? + BONUS Autobahn CAUTIONS/TIPS

Richard Beels beels at technologist.com
Tue May 29 14:03:48 EDT 2001

I just returned from a long week in Munich and have to agree with Leigh 
here.  Some additional comments...

- Don't worry about an "autobahn license" or an "international driving 
license".  All you need is a valid US driving license.
- Didn't take a detector with me but didn't need one.  Once you get away 
from construction, interchange, populated areas, it's still "put the hammer 
down".  Most people drive 20kph over the limit when there is one - it's the 
same as doing 10 over in the US.  Just don't be the rabbit.
- The electric light road signs above the road have photo-radar in 
them.  It sucks to get a ticket in the mail after you get home.  You don't 
have to pay it but the rental car company will not rent you a car again.
- These signs display speed limit changes, accidents ahead info and 
such.  Pay attention to them.
- Lane discipline is not what it used to be, true.  But down in Bavaria, 
it's still leap years ahead of any typical US highway's.
- Cruising speed is around 200 (kph!) in the unrestricted zones 
(120mph).  Slow people do around 120-150kph (75-90mph).
- Don't even think about passing on the right.
- If there's an accident,  leave the _middle_ open for emergency traffic by 
pulling to the outside lane as far as possible - don't just pull over to 
the right like in the US.
- If you have/rent a cellphone, it must be hands-free.
- Virtually everyone keeps their eyes ahead when passing, hardly any rubber 
- re: traffic jams I don't know how to spell it, but it's pronounced 
"shtall", as in stall with a "sh" at the beginning.  And they do happen at 
- There is no overall night-time speed limit but some sections have an 
evening (2200-0600) limit of 120.
- There are some areas that have speed limits when it's raining (sign will 
have a couple wavy lines under the car), usually 80 or 120 and close to cities.
- Sign with a number and a red outline is a speed limit.  A grey outline 
and diagonal lines means the "end of" whatver is in the sign (speed limit, 
passing restrictions, etc...).
- It's technically illegal to flash your headlights - or even sit behind a 
left-lane loiterer with your left-blinker on - but you won't get pulled 
over for it unless you abuse it.
- It is illegal to run out of gas on the autobahn and you will be 
ticketed.  Also, if you have a breakdown or accident, you're required by 
law to call the police and inform them (but if you can flag down a luckily 
passing taxi.....).  Gas is about $4.00 gallon on the autobahn rest areas.
- Zero potholes, zero expansion joint "bumps", nice, long merge lanes.
- Roadkill does exist but all the animals I saw were smaller than a big 
dog.  German deer are quite small (didn't see any of those).
- If you rent a car, it's a difference experience returning them than in 
the US.  You're met by a group of inspectors who will spend about 5 minutes 
going over the car and nit-picking the crap out of it: lifting the 
floormats to see if you've cut out the carpet underneath, making sure you 
didn't steal the reflective triangle, asking you if you went to Italy or 
Eastern Europe (old East Germany doesn't count), seeing if the spare tire 
is still there, etc...  Be prepared and don't be late to the airport.
- Good websites: http://home.att.net/~texhwyman/autobahn.htm 
  and http://www.autobahn-online.de/geschichte_e.html
- http://www.born-free.net has good info on the Nurburgring.  It's still a 
couple/few hour drive from practically anywhere in Germany.  it's well 
worth the effort if you can swing it.  Hit the site to see if it's being 
used - there is an auto-fax service as well.

It's way fun blowing by a cop at 130+ mph (even they don't look at you when 
you pass).  But you will lift off the gas the first time you see a cop - 
even in an unrestricted zone.  You see the cop.  Stomach to brain: Shit, 
cop!  Brain to foot: Shit!  Lift!  Brain: Uhhh... waitaminute...  There's 
no speed limit.  Hey, there's NO SPEED LIMIT!  (to foot): Hit it!  (to 
stomach): fahgetaboutit!  Then you pass the cop giggling like an insane 
fool.  Again, it's way fun blowing by cops at 130+ mph....  :-)

Best single tip: Look WAY WAY WAY ahead and enjoy the roads while you 
can.  It sucks the first few days back....   :-)

At 16:47 5/28/2001,  Leigh Anderson was inspired to say:
>However, i did find out that the of the two main radar freqs used in 
>germany, exactly only one is covered by usa-oriented detectors. My 
>recommendation is don't push speed outside of unlimited-speed zones, which 
>get fewer and fewer over the years.
>BTW esp. for usa first-timers to germany autobahns - do not count on lane 
>discipline in germany anymore. in fact if you are steaming along at high 
>speed and you encounter a 'sh_t-box' (tiny car) anywhere near an 
>overtaking position on a truck, ASSUME IT ***WILL**** PULL IN LEFT LANE 
>often, so rent a car with really good brakes.  When i see that situation 
>developing ahead I always slow way down so that overtaking speed 
>differential is such that I can outbrake this classic sh_tbox move (like 
>slow from 140 down to 90 or less which puts you in their mirror for more 
>than 3 seconds.  Count on "stau's sp?", traffic jams, frequently during 
>daylight hours. Drive at wee hours to avoid traffic.  Have a co-pilot 
>calling out the speed sign changes which are frequent (much smaller signs 
>than usa), the driver can't catch all the speed limit changes and keep 
>attention on the road ahead at speed.  At night, flash your brights a 
>couple times a quarter mile ahead of overtaking a right-lane group, it 
>freezes everyone pretty effectively. When available, at speed, use 
>ultra-long arcing/racing-lines employing parts of a couple adjacent lanes 
>for a longer vision-sight-line and so you have more lateral room for 
>straighter-line braking as needed... so eg on left-handers favor moving at 
>least part-way into middle/right lane, for much longer sight-line. Keep 
>your eyes way out there a half-mile or better.
>Have fun and be safe over there.
>my 2 cents on autobahn tips. (hey it rhymes)


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