If you are moving to Germany and usually drive at home, the chances are you are going to want to use your vehicle in the country. It is wise to get clued up on the differences between the UK and Germany in terms of driving before you leave, so that you are well equipped to hit the road.
First and foremost, they drive on the right-hand side of the road in Germany, which is a habit you must get into. This can feel counter-intuitive when you have spent years driving on the left and be sure to remind yourself of the difference after making stops, as you may automatically revert to what you know.
What you need
There are certain items that you must carry with you at all times when driving in Germany. Here is a checklist to ensure you don't forget any of them.
· A full driving licence – any EU or EEA country-issued licence is valid in Germany, making an international permit superfluous.
· Insurance record
· ID, such as a passport
· Proof of ownership of the vehicle, which is likely to be a V5C certificate
· A reflective jacket – for use in a breakdown. It is a legal requirement to have one onboard
· A warning triangle – also illegal to travel without one
· Headlamp deflector stickers if you are driving a left-hand-drive car
· A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) sticker is driving in these zones – it states what the vehicle's emissions are and must meet the criteria of the area
· A first aid kit – not compulsory, but it is advisable
Failure to have any of these items apart from the last one can lead to strict penalties, such as pricey on-the-spot fines.
Fines are also issued for any driver or passenger not wearing a seatbelt. These are typically €30 (£26) per person and a further €30 if a child is not restrained properly. Children under three years of age are not permitted to ride in the front of vehicles in Germany.
The German police can demand the payment of fines up to €35 immediately with just one week to pay if the driver does not have the money on them. €35 of a larger fine can be extracted as a deposit. If a serious incident occurs, the police can confiscate the vehicle.
Here is a selection of rules to be aware of:
· Always give way to trams
· Only use the car's horn in built-up areas in cases of extreme danger
· Never pass a school bus that has stopped, as children are likely to be embarking or disembarking
· Drivers are required to use headlights at all times and using sidelights only is illegal
· A car is categorised as parked if it remains in the same spot for three minutes or more
· All cases of injury or serious damage to a vehicle must be reported to the police
· Accidents involving personal injury must be outlined to insurance companies within three days of occurring
· Incidents resulting in material damage should be reported within a week of happening.
Always remember that speed limits are measured in kilometres as opposed to miles on the continent and do not exceed them. The general rule is that 50 kilometres per hour is the limit in urban areas, unless stated, when it is likely to be 30 kilometres per hour.
Urban stretches of road tend to carry a 100 kilometres per hour limit; dual carriageways – 130; and a range between 80 and 100 outside of built-up areas. Autobahns famously have no speed limit, so it is important to go fast and be aware of other drivers at all times.
You will need winter tyres or snow chains to drive in icy conditions, so it is important to purchase these and have them fitted. You can get chains before leaving the UK, but remember not to exceed 50 kilometres an hour with them on. Alternatively, buy winter tyres once in Germany.
Any vehicle involved in a collision in winter weather that has not been equipped with chains or special tyres will automatically be considered at least partially at fault.