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Do German cars drive on the left?

Do German cars drive on the left?

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    Driving in Germany

    Germany: land of the Autobahn, wonderful cars, precision engineering, and efficiency. With its incredible road network and breathtaking scenery, Germany is a natural choice for a road trip. But like any other country it has its unique rules and conventions when it comes to driving.

    Licence and documentation

    All you need to drive in Germany is a full and valid UK driving licence, so don’t worry about an International Driving Permit.

    Make sure you carry the following documents on you at all times:

    • Your full licence
    • Your V5C certificate to prove ownership of your car
    • Your passport
    • Proof of insurance

    Compulsory equipment when driving in Germany

    Safety on the roads in Germany is a big deal, and there are safety items you must carry in the car at all times. These are:

    • Warning triangle (compulsory in all vehicles with four wheels or more)
    • Reflective safety jackets
    • First aid kit
    • Beam deflectors
    • Safety helmet if riding a motorcycle

    If you’re driving where there may be snow or ice then you can either have winter tires fitted or carry snow chains. Although they aren’t compulsory, just be aware that if you have an accident in snowy conditions and don’t have either, then you are automatically considered partially to blame for the accident.

    Driving rules in Germany

    The following isn’t an exhaustive list of rules and regulations, but these are the most important ones to stick to.

    Speed limits

    Unless there are signs stating otherwise, the following speed limits apply when driving in Germany:

    • Motorways – 130 km/h
    • Main roads — 100 km/h
    • Urban areas – 50 km/h

    Many parts of the Autobahn have no speed limit, which is indicated by a circular white sign with five diagonal black lines. You can drive as fast as you feel safe, but just be aware that cars can appear suddenly behind you, so take extra care when overtaking.

    If you are towing a caravan or trailer you have to display a 100 km/h sticker at all times.

    Traffic lights

    The three-colour light system is in use. However, a red light with a green arrow pointing right allows motorists to turn right at a red light if they give way to other drivers and pedestrians.

    At railway crossings a red flashing light means that a train is approaching, and all traffic must stop until the train has passed and the lights cease flashing.

    Alcohol consumption

    Although Germans love their beer, which is some of the finest in the world, they prize responsibility. Drink driving restrictions are even tighter than in the UK with a maximum level of blood alcohol volume of 0.05%. But there is a zero tolerance rule in effect for drivers who have less than two years experience or are under 21.

    Police can request a breath test if they pull you over and suspect you are driving under the influence. If you refuse, you’ll have to take a blood test.

    Seatbelts and child safety

    Seatbelts must be worn at all times by both the driver and passengers. Failure to do so while driving in Germany will result in a fine.

    If you’ve got children with you, then remember:

    • Children aged under three cannot travel without a child seat.
    • Children aged three or over must travel in the rear seats.
    • Any child under the age of 12 and less than 1.5m tall must use a child seat or restraint.
    • If a child seat or restraint is not available, and the child is over three, they may use a standard seatbelt.
    • All child seats and safety equipment must conform to European standards.

    Priority on the road

    Priority on the road is a bit different in Germany:

    • Traffic coming from the right takes priority at all crossroads and junctions.
    • Vehicles on a roundabout have right of way, unless signs indicate they don’t.
    • Do not indicate when you enter a roundabout, only when about to exit.
    • Any emergency vehicle that has flashing lights has priority, even if there is no siren.


    In Germany the sign that indicates ‘no overtaking’ means you cannot overtake a vehicle with more than two wheels. So if you’re in a car then feel free to overtake a motorbike, but don’t overtake a car, lorry or other four-wheeled vehicle.

    If two or more lanes are travelling in the same direction and traffic has built up it is OK to overtake on the inside.

    A lot of German towns and cities have tram networks and these need special consideration. When in motion on a two-way street, trams must be overtaken on the right, unless space is inadequate in which case they may be overtaken on the left. On a one-way street trams can be overtaken on either side.


    If you are taking a caravan or trailer with you when driving in Germany remember the following guidelines:

    • Your car must be equipped with side rear-view mirrors. These may exceed the width of the caravan, but must be foldable.
    • The towed item cannot exceed 4 metres in height.
    • The towed item cannot exceed 12 metres in length.
    • The towed item cannot exceed 2.5 metres in width.
    • The total length of vehicle and towed item cannot exceed 18.75m.
    • If towing an item with a motorcycle the overall width cannot exceed 1m.


    You’ll no doubt need to park up during your trip, and you don’t want to fall foul of Germany’s parking regulations. If you are hit with an on-the-spot fine and cannot (or refuse to) pay, then your vehicle can be confiscated.

    In Germany a vehicle is considered parked if it is stationary for more than three minutes. You are not permitted to park in the following circumstances:

    • Within 10m of traffic lights
    • Closer than 5m to pedestrian crossings and intersections
    • Closer than 15m to a bus stop or other public vehicle area
    • By the kerbside facing oncoming traffic
    • Blocking entry to buildings, or on the opposite side of the street from an entrance if this makes the road too narrow for vehicles to access
    • At any place marked with a parking prohibited sign
    • On a bike lane
    • Next to a traffic island

    Following these rules and tips should make driving in Germany smooth and enjoyable. Before you head out make sure you’ve got sufficient European breakdown cover, because the last thing you want to ruin your holiday is the cost and worry of fixing your car abroad.

    Can You Drive a Left-Hand Car in Europe?

    Europe has many countries with different car safety laws. So driving there can be a confusing experience for Americans. While there are plenty of great European cars to try, traffic rules may be a little different from what many Americans are used to. Here’s a look at which European countries allow driving in left-hand cars.

    A history of traffic rules

    According to WorldStandards, whether a country allows driving on the left or the right depends on its history. Nowadays, this debate over which side of the road people should drive on is done in jest, but it has a practical history. In the old days, people preferred to travel on the left side of the road because it would be dangerous to travel on their right, WorldStandards reports.

    That’s because folks wanted to draw their swords to defend themselves if anything happened. This trend began to die down during the late 1700s when people preferred to travel on the right side of the road. This switch happened mainly because the peasants traveled on the right, and the rich didn’t want to attract negative attention to themselves by traveling on the opposite side.

    By and large, this preference persisted into the automobile age. Most countries nowadays drive on the right with left-hand cars. But about 35 percent of the world still drives on the left with right-hand cars, WorldStandards shows.

    A stark divide between left and right


    Practically speaking, most European countries are the same as America: They drive on the right with left-hand cars. In fact, only a handful of European nations drive on the left with right-hand cars, and they’re mostly countries with a strong connection to the United Kingdom, WorldStandards reports.

    Those handful of countries are the U.K., Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta. Every other European country drives on the right with left-hand cars, including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Russia. That said, it’s possible rules could change. According to WorldStandards, in the 1960s, the U.K. considered changing from left to right. However, that proposal eventually died.

    In any case, anyone visiting or living outside of those four countries can drive left-hand cars because the cars and roads aren’t much different from America’s. However, rules are slightly different in those four countries that drive on the left with right-hand cars.

    Can you drive a left-hand car in European countries that drive on the left?

    Before you rent or buy a left-hand car to drive in Europe, you’ll need an international driving permit. Once you have that, you can drive a left-hand car around just fine, since most of Europe drives on the right with left-hand cars as America does. But for the four European countries that drive on the left side with right-hand cars, the laws vary by country.

    For example, it’s legal to own and drive a left-hand car in the U.K., Car Keys reports. This makes sense because most cars made in Europe are left-hand cars. So if any British people want to import a left-hand car, they can. That said, even though left-hand cars are allowed in the U.K., they still must travel on the left side of the road. This is a challenging experience, and it’s why folks should get a lot of practice first.

    Other countries that drive on the left may have similar rules, but they vary. However, Americans in Europe can avoid all of those hassles by visiting a country that drives on the right with left-hand cars. Either that or they can take rideshares.

    German traffic rules differ from US rules

    WIESBADEN, Germany — Driving on German streets is very similar to driving in the U.S. most of the time. However, some small differences can complicate the lives of American drivers in Germany. Jovica Savovski, training instructor with the Drivers Training and Testing Station, highlighted some of the differences between the two countries.

    In Germany, drivers have to yield to the right when no signs or traffic lights indicate otherwise, Savovski said. This applies most of the time to residential or industrial areas or 30 kph zones.

    Most roundabouts have yield signs, which means cars in the circle have the right of way, Savovski said. However, some do not have signs. In these cases, the right-before-left rule applies and the driver to enter the circle has the right of way. Once in the roundabout, the driver has to yield to the right.

    On a German Autobahn, it is not only a recommendation, he said, it is a law to drive on the right lane whenever possible. For passing a slower car, the driver has to change to the left lane. It is forbidden to pass cars on the right side. If a driver infringes this rule and the German Polizei sees that, a fine up to 450 euros might be imposed. The only exceptions to the rule are getting on the Autobahn, exiting it or being stuck in a traffic jam.

    “I always say the left lane is for BMW, the middle one for Golf and the right lane for Corsa,” Savovski said, referring to the differing maximum speed of the three cars with the Corsa being the slowest one.

    Within the city limits, the lanes can be chosen freely, he said. Outside of city limits, passing other cars on the right is forbidden.

    When a traffic jam comes to a total stop, drivers have to keep an emergency lane for emergency personnel, Savovski said.

    During an emergency, mere seconds can save lives. “Once traffic slows down, drivers in the left lane should move as far to the left as possible, while drivers in the other lanes should all move as far as possible to the right. Failure to do so, can result in a fine,” said Thomas Becker, first police chief inspector with the Wiesbaden Police Directorate.

    If the visibility in foggy weather conditions is less than 50 m, the maximum speed on German streets is 50 kph. Drivers should also make sure to keep a 50-meter distance to other cars. The formula is 50-50-50, Savovski said.

    If the car has a fog light, it is mandatory to turn it on, he said. Not doing so can result in a fine of up to 80 euros. If the car does not have a fog light, the driver is still allowed to drive in fog.

    Having a reflective safety vest for every person in the car is a requirement in Germany, he said. In case of an accident or a breakdown on the Autobahn, people should wear the vests and stay behind the guardrail while waiting for the Polizei or the towing truck.

    Within city limits, the speed limit is always 50 kph, Savovski said, outside city limits, it is 100 kph, unless indicated otherwise. On the Autobahn, the recommended speed is 130 kph, unless a lower speed limit is indicated. Even when it is allowed to drive faster, people might lose their insurance coverage in an accident in bad weather conditions, he said.

    On U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden premises, the speed limit is 30 kph. People who drive faster might be suspended from driving on post for a 30-day period according to regulation, he said.

    A Parkscheibe is a plastic device that lets the driver indicate the time of arrival, and has to be placed on the dashboard. This device is necessary in some residency zones where parking is limited to a certain time frame – usually two hours —, in certain streets and on some supermarket parking lots. The need to use the Parkscheibe will always be indicated. It can get expensive if the Parkscheibe is required and the driver forgets to put it on the dashboard, he said.

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