Speed limits are the bane of every motoring enthusiast. While we certainly don’t advocate disobeying them and breaking the law, driving at high speeds gets the adrenaline pumping – and the best place to do so is in Germany.
Granted, there are other countries around the globe where there are no speed limits. Our best guess, however, is that you’d rather avoid the likes of North Korea and Afghanistan (…) in favor of the world-renowned, and much more friendly, Autobahns (or Autobahnen, as is the plural in German).
A common misconception is that you can drive as fast as you like in almost any German highway. That’s most certainly not the case: while there are 65 sections with no limits at all where you can reach extraordinary speeds, there’s another 1,800 miles of Autobahn that have speed limits as low as 37 mph (60 km/h).
It is hard to find a motoring journalist who hasn’t experienced (and raved about) the joy of a derestricted Autobahn at, oh, around 150 mph or so. You don’t have to be one to do so, though, as most car rental companies have a lot of suitable machinery, from BMW M3 and M5s to Porsche 911s and even the (relatively new) Jaguar F-Type that you can book.
To do so you’ll have to be at least 27-years old, hold a driving license for at least three years (sorry, no novices…) and show two credit cards.
Even if you tick all the boxes, though, there are certain rules you have to follow for driving on the Autobahn. The locals know them better, so here’s a list of do’s and don’ts from our fellow colleagues at Autobild magazine. You’d better follow them, too, unless you want to get friendly with the Polizei. Trust us you don’t, so here’s what you should look out for.
1. Tailgaiting: An easy way to get handed a heavy fine, lose your driving license or, at the worst case scenario, get sentenced up to 3 years in jail is getting too close to the car in front of you and flashing your lights to force them into moving out of your way.
2. Overtaking on the right: Never, ever even think about it. When doing so, better check your mirrors that there’s no other car behind closing on you at a (usually much) higher speed.
3. “Rechtsfahrgebot”: No, it’s not a local specialty but the law that requires you to drive on the utmost right lane at all times unless you’re overtaking. The left lane is known as the “passing lane” for a reason. Overtake, then move to the right, (not even in the middle) or you’re breaking the Rechtsgahrgebot.
4. U-turns: Verboten under all circumstances. In these high-speed three lane highways, this is a potentially lethal move that may cause serious accidents and is punished severely. Don’t even think about it no matter what.
5. Emergency lanes: Use them only in the case of a real emergency, i.e. if your car breaks down or you run out of fuel (kinda stupid, but it happens). Stopping to have a chat on your cell is ill-advised. You must also turn on your hazard lights, set up a warning triangle and call for help ASAP.
6. Enter and exit: When entering the Autobahn you should be careful and never try to force your way in, or else you might have a close encounter with the law. If you want to exit, you should use your turn signal at 200-300 yards before the ramp, though a slight delay is not a big deal.
By Andrew Tsaousis