Driving in German Cities, Towns and Villages

This page contains following topics:

  1. Personal Safety and Mandatory Equipment in Vehicle
  2. Speed Limit in City
  3. 30 ZONE
  4. Two Types of Speed Limits in Germany
  5. Two-lane Expressway
  6. Speed Limit on Roads Outside City Limits
  7. Advisory Speed Limit Indicator
  8. Priority Road
  9. Right before Left
  10. Tailgating
  11. To see the important road signs in Germany please visit Important Road Signs

Personal Safety and Mandatory Equipment in Vehicle

All passengers are required to fasten seat belts. If any of the passenger is traveling without seat belt, driver of the vehicle has to pay the fine upto 50 Euros. Children under 3 years must be seated in child seat in the rear of the vehicle.Children under 12 years or shorter than 1.5m years must be seated in rear of the vehicle. Child seat or proper restraint is recommended for all children under 12 years.
Some equipment is mandatory in every traveling vehicle in Germany that includes:

  1. First aid kit (Mandatory for vehicles registered in Germany. Recommended for foreign registered vehicles.)
  2. Warning Triangle (Mandatory for vehicles registered in Germany. Recommended for foreign registered vehicles.)
  3. Reflective safety jackets (Mandatory for vehicles registered in Germany. Recommended for foreign registered vehicles.)
  4. Helmet (In case of motorcycle or moped)
  5. Beam deflectors
  6. Cycles must be installed with functional front and backlight during night, rain and snow. Default reflectors are not enough.

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20 years of experience

27 years research

Taught German from A1 to B2 in just 60 days

with Michael Schmitz

Speed Limit in City

Normal speed limit within cities is 50km/h. This limit automatically starts at sign bearing the city name. At sign 310, drivers must reduce the speed to 50km/h until a sign appears allowing higher speed limit or sign indicating end of city boundary i.e. sign 311 or 310-40.

Sign 310

This sign indicates name of town or city. At this point speed must be reduced to 50km/h.

Sign 311

Backside of sign 310, marking end of city Wilster and indicating next city. Speed limit 100km/h is generally applicable now.

Next city, Schotten is 6km away.

30 ZONE

Inside cities, there can be some inner residential areas where speed limits reduce to 30km/h. These areas are marked by sign 274.

Sign 274-1

Signboard indicating 30 ZONE ahead. Speed must be reduced to 30km/h on seeing this sign.

Sign 274-2

Limit 30km/h is no longer applicable. Here starts the normal intercity speed limit of 50km/h.

Types of Speed Limits

1. Upper-speed limit

Sign 274

Indicates the maximum speed allowed.

Sign 278

Indicates the end of a current speed limit zone.

2. Lower speed limit.

Mandatory minimum speeds are posted on some roads. Vehicles unable to maintain the minimum speed are not allowed on roads where sign 275 appears. Except for certain types of military vehicles, vehicles that cannot maintain the minimum speed are not allowed on these roads.

Sign 275

Required speed no less than that shown on the sign, unless the road and traffic conditions, weather, or visibility make it necessary to drive more slowly.

Sign 279

Indicates the end of the minimum speed requirement.

Autobahns (sign 330) and roads reserved for motor vehicles (sign 331) have a minimum speed limit of 60 kph (37 mph). These minimum speed limits must be obeyed except when the road, traffic, visibility, or weather conditions force drivers to proceed more slowly.

Two-lane Expressway (Kraftfahrstraße)

A two-lane expressway or two-lane freeway is an expressway or freeway with only one lane in each direction, and usually no median barrier.

On expressways outside built-up areas with one-way lanes separated by medians or other structures, the same speed limits apply as on motorways.

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Many rural highways have been converted into the two-lane expressway. These segments are built to Autobahn standards but with only one carriageway; all of the overpasses, culverts and short bridges, cuttings and earthworks are wide enough for twin carriageways, and only some long bridges would need to be dualized for upgrading to a full 4- or 5-lane Autobahn

Two-lane Expressway is marked by sign 331.1.

Sign 331.1

Posted at beginning of Two-lane Expressway (Kraftfahrstraße), entrances to this road is restricted to motor vehicles. This sign permits only vehicles capable of maintaining speeds of 60 km/h or more. All other vehicles (for example, bicycles, animal-drawn vehicles) are prohibited on these roads.

Sign 331.2

End of Two-lane Expressway. Posted where the restrictions required by sign 331 end.

Solid white line (sign 295) in middle of expressway prohibits traffic from passing on either side of the solid white line. Vehicles must not cross the solid white line, nor is it authorized for motorcyclists to lean over the line. Where a solid white line is used to mark the edge of the road, it is prohibited to stop or park on the left side of the line.

Broken White Line (sign 340) used to mark traffic lanes or the center of the road. The broken line may be crossed only if passing can be done safely.

Sign 295

Solid White Line

Sign 340

Broken White Line

Sign 296

Solid and Broken White Line (sign 296) indicates that passing is allowed for drivers on the side of the broken line and prohibited for drivers on the side of the solid line.

Speed Limit on Roads Outside City Limits

On roads outside built-up areas:

Sign 393

Posted at country borders indicates the speed limit inside city limits, outside city limits, and on the autobahn.

On roads, which are separated by median strips or other structures, as well as on roads having at least two lanes for each direction marked by lane boundary (sign 295) or by guidelines (sign 340), advisory speed limit for Passenger cars and other motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of up to 3.5t, is 130 km/h

Recommended Speed Limit Indicator (Advisory Speed Limit Indicator)

Sign 380 indicates a recommended maximum speed, weather, and road conditions permitting. Recommended speeds are intended to create a smooth flow of traffic.

Sign 380

This sign recommends that drivers not exceed the speed limit on the sign, if the driver has favorable road, traffic, visibility, and weather conditions.

Priority Road

Germany has a unique priority road sign (sign 306) which indicates that road as a priority road. Traffic on this road has the right-of-way over traffic entering this road at unmarked intersections. Outside of cities and communities, parking on a priority road is prohibited, unless there are marked signs for Parking.

Sign 306

Drivers on this road have the right-of-way at all intersections on this road until canceled by a "Yield", "Stop", or "End of Priority Road" sign. Outside of urban areas, parking is prohibited on this road.

Sign 307

Indicates the end of the priority road and the end of right-of-way (sign 306).

Priority road sign can be used with other traffic signs. In some cases priority roads go left or right instead of straight ahead. When the priority road turns, this will be indicated by sign 306 and a directional sign showing the priority road in bold. Please see examples below:

Sign 306 with 1002-12

Indicates that traffic on the priority road (indicated by the wide, curved black line) has the right-of-way at the next junction.

This sign gives the driver on the priority road right-of-way not only when turning left, but also he/she also has right-of-way while driving straight.

Sign 306 with 1002-21

Sign 306 with 1002-21 requires the driver to yield to traffic coming from the right.

Drivers who leave the priority road have the right-of-way over drivers who have yield signs. Drivers who stay on the priority road must use their turn signal when the priority road turns.

There is another priority road sign (sign 301) which is only to be seen on an intersection. That indicates traffic on this road has priority on other directions.

Sign 301

Indicates that traffic on this road has the right-of-way only at the next intersection only.

Right before Left

When traffic signs are absent, vehicles coming from the right have the right-of-way at intersections, junctions, and traffic circles. This rule applies to motor vehicles, bicycles, and animal-drawn wagons. Excluding the exceptions below, the right-before-left rule applies at all intersections regardless of the width of the street or the angle of the intersection.

Exceptions for Right before Left Rule

  1. Vehicles coming from pedestrian zones (signs 239 and 242) or from a pedestrian priority zone (sign 325) onto through roads. Drivers exiting such areas must yield to all traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles.
    Sign 239

    Indicates areas restricted to and mandatory for pedestrians.

    Sign 242-1

    Pedestrian Zone. Indicates an area where only pedestrians are permitted.

    Sign 242-2

    End of Pedestrian Zone.

    Sign 325-1

    Traffic-Controlled Residential Area. Posted on or before streets on which pedestrians and playing children have priority. Motor vehicles must yield to pedestrians and children playing on this street.

    Sign 325-2

    End of Traffic-Controlled Residential Area. Indicates the end of the traffic-controlled residential area (sign 325-1). Vehicles leaving these areas must yield to all traffic.

  2. On entrance ramps to autobahns and express roads.
  3. When a vehicle enters a public road from private property, a private road, or a parking space. In these cases, traffic on the public road has priority.

Please see a detailed article on right before left on this page.

Tailgating

The driver should keep their vehicles at safe distance from vehicles in front of them to avoid fatal accidents on sudden/emergency brakes. Besides tailgating can be very costly in Germany, especially on Autobahns and Expressways. German traffic authorities recommend one-half the speedometer reading in meters as a safe distance for following vehicles (for example, at 60 kph, the recommended distance between vehicles is 30 meters). Greater distances should be used according to current road conditions. Another method for estimating a safe following distance from the vehicle in front is the "3-second method." Note a spot on the road (for example, a road post). When the vehicle in front passes that spot, begin counting (one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three). If you pass the spot before you finish counting to three, you are following too closely. In bad weather, 4 or 5 seconds are recommended. Road conditions and driving speed always must be considered in choosing a safe following distance.

Traffic Calming Zones / Traffic-Controlled Residential Area

In German, they are called verkehrsberuhigter Bereich or Spielstraße. In these areas, vehicles speed should be reduced to walking human speed, as there can be children playing in the area. Pedestrians and playing children have priority in this area, and drivers must yield to pedestrians and children playing on this street.

Sign 325.1

Start of Traffic-Controlled Residential Area.

Posted on or before streets on which pedestrians and playing children have priority.

Sign 325.2

Indicates the end of the traffic-controlled residential area. Vehicles leaving these areas must yield to all traffic.

In traffic-controlled residential area,

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No Entry / Prohibited Entry Signs

Roads with signs 250 or 267 are not allowed to enter.

Sign 250

Prohibits entry for all types of motor vehicles.

Sign 268

This is more strict sign than 268. It prohibits entry for all types of vehicles. Posted at the end of one-way streets to prevent entry of vehicles from the wrong direction.

Sign 250 has many other forms and supplementary sings, for example, A sign reading Anlieger frei posted underneath the sign 250 means that entry is permitted only to people who reside or have business on the street

Sign 250 with additional sign 1020-30

It indicates:Entry prohibited, except for who reside or have business on this street.

Sign 250 with 1022-14

Entry prohibited except for bicycle and moped.

Please check the full list of traffic signs to have a look at all the supplementary signs. Pay attention to signs with German word frei which means free/clear. Only the cleared vehicles (written or drawn on supplementary sign) may enter the roads with prohibited entry signs.

One-way Street (Einbahnstraße)

One way street (Einbahnstraße) is indicated with the sign 220. As discussed above, the opposite end of the one-way street has no entry/prohibited entry signs. Passing street car on one-way street from either sides is allowed.

one-way street sign
Sign 220-10

One-way street

one-way street sign
Sign 220-20

One-way street

When one-way street ends and joins a two-way-street or road, there are three points to consider.

  1. Passing streetcar from left is no more allowed.
  2. Parking on the left side of the street is no more allowed.
  3. Turning left is no more allowed if there is a solid line in between.

For parking regulations on one-way street please check the page Parking system in Germany.

Level Crossing

Level crossing (Railway crossing) signs have 4 distance levels. First one is posted at 240m from crossing, second at 160m and third at 80m, then at the actual point of crossing there is yellow and red lights, a bell/alarm (some crossings do not have these though) and crossbucks to indicate that the crossing is active. When a train is coming, yellow light flashes which is followed by a red light that stays lit until the train(s) have cleared the crossing. Vehicles may proceed when the flashing red light goes out.

Sign at 240m

Sign at 160m

Sign at 80m

Class 2 vehicles and vehicles with trailers are required by law to stop immediately after passing the single-stripe signpost (sign 162/80m sign) when the railroad crossing is closed or a train is approaching. This requirement enables faster moving vehicles to pass slower vehicles before reaching the crossing.

Older crossings have a single red light on a square backboard with a red and white border. If more than one train is coming, the bell will change in tone and a sign reading "2 Züge" will flash (this applies to old crossings only).

St. Andrew's cross with old flashing light, alarm clock and illuminated lettering on isolated paths.

New lights.

After crossing the level crossing, unless there is a speed limit sign, the speed limit is the national speed limit. That is, 50 km/h for built-up areas and 100 km/h outside built-up areas.

In some small villages, unguarded crossing might have just St. Andrews Cross (crossbucks), and no other indication that it is unguarded crossing, so drivers should approach level crossing carefully in villages.

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