Driving rules in germany

This page discusses general traffic rules in Germany. To avoid the length, Parking rules, Autobahn rules and Right of way (Priority rules) have been transferred to separate pages.

This page contains following topics:

  1. Personal Safety Rules & Mandatory Equipment in Vehicle
  2. Speed Limit Rules in City
  3. 30 ZONE
  4. German Speed Limit Signs
  5. Two-lane Expressway
  6. Advisory Speed Limit
  7. Priority Road
  8. Right before Left
  9. Safe Distance between Cars
  10. Traffic Calming Zone (Spielstraße)
  11. Pedestrian Crosswalk Rules
  12. No Entry Signs and Rules
  13. One-Way Street in Germany
  14. German Level Crossing
  15. To see the important road signs in Germany please visit Important Road Signs

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Personal Safety Rules & Mandatory Equipment in Vehicle

Fastening the seat belt is mandatory. Driver of the vehicle has to pay the fine up to 50 Euros if any passenger in a vehicle is traveling without the seat belt. Children under 3 years must be seated in the child seat in the rear of the vehicle. Children under 12 years or shorter than 1.5 m years must be seated in the rear of the vehicle. A 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 backlights during night, rain and snow. Default reflectors are not enough.

Speed Limit Rules in City

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

start of city limits
Sign 310

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

end of city limits
Sign 311

This is the backside of sign 310. It marks the end of current city Wilster. The next city, Schotten is 6 km away. Now speed limit 100 km/h is generally applicable, if not indicated by any other speed limit sign.

30 ZONE

Inside cities, there can be some inner residential areas where speed limits reduce to 30 km/h. This speed limit is applicable in all streets of such areas. The beginning of 30 is marked by sign 274 . Usually, there are no traffic signals or priority signboards in 30 zones. "Right before left" rule is generally applicable in 30 zones.

start of a 30 zone
Sign 274-1

Signboard indicating 30 ZONE ahead. The maximum speed limit is 30 km/h after this sign.

end of a 30 zone
Sign 274-2

End of a 30 ZONE. The speed limit 30 km/h is no longer applicable. Here starts the normal intercity speed limit of 50 km/h, if not indicated by speed limit sign.

German Speed Limit Signs

1. Maximum Allowed Speed Limit Sign

the maximum  allowed speed sign
Sign 274

Example speed limit sign. Number in a red circle indicates the maximum allowed speed.

sign indicating end of maximum  allowed speed
Sign 278

Indicates the end of a current speed limit.

2. Minimum Required Speed Limit Sign

Some roads have mandatory minimum speed requirements. Slower vehicles, that are unable to maintain minimum required speed are not allowed on these roads. Except for certain types of military vehicles. Mandatory least required speed signs are in blue circles.

Sign 275

Number in a blue circle indicates mandatory required speed. Speed must not be less than indicated on the blue circle sign, unless the road and traffic conditions, weather, or visibility make it necessary to drive slowler.

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 km/h (37 mph). These minimum speed limits must be obeyed except when the traffic, visibility, or weather conditions force drivers to proceed more slowly.

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Two-lane Expressway (Kraftfahrstraße)

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 only to motor vehicles capable of maintaining speeds of 60 km/h or more.

Sign 331.2

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

Two-lane expressways or two-lane freeways (in German Kraftfahrstraße or Schnellstraße ) are also part of the highway network, but their standard is lower than Autobahn in many aspects. Expressway in Germany has one roadway (carriageway). Unlike Autobahn, expressways usually don't have guard rails to separate the roadway for opposite directions.

Rural expressways are built to Autobahn standards but with only one carriageway so that they can easily be converted into Autobahn. All the overpasses, culverts and short bridges are widened enough for twin carriageways. Only some long bridges would need to be dualized for upgrading to a full Autobahn.

U-turns and backing up are not permitted on Expressway. Parking or stopping on the road is also not allowed. Vehicles that are not able to attain the maximum speed of 60 km/h are not allowed on Expressway. Only motor vehicles are allowed and all other types of vehicles (for example, bicycles, animal-drawn vehicles) are prohibited on Expressway. Motor vehicle or motorized vehicle means a vehicle with an internal combustion engine or electric motor.

Speed Limit Rules on Expressway

Inside city limits:

Unlike Autobahn, expressways often pass through towns and cities. If there is no speed limit sign, the expressway has general speed limits of 50 km/h inside built-up areas. As discussed earlier, the start of buit-up area is indicated by a yellow sign bearing the city name.

Inside city limits, if the oncoming traffic is divided by a solid structure like guard rails, the speed limit is normally higher than 50 km/h and is indicated by speed limit signs.

Out of city limits:

The speed limit for passenger cars, motorcycles, and other vehicles weighing less than 3.5 t is generally 100 km/h. Expressways on which the oncoming traffic is divided by guard rails or other solid structures, the speed limit can be higher than 100 km/h and is indicated by speed limit sign. Expressways can also have two lanes for each direction.

For cars with trailers and vehicles weighing from 3.5 t to 7.5 t, the maximum speed limit is 80 km/h. Passenger cars without trailers weighing over 3.5 t are not included in this category.

For Vehicles over 7.5 t, the speed limit is 60 km/h. That includes buses and coaches with a trailer or carrying passengers to their full seating capacity.

100 km/h for coaches and buses without a trailer, with following conditions:

  1. Buses that are fitted with seat belts on all seats and wheelchair spaces.
  2. Buses that are according to the entry in Part I of their registration certificate, are permitted to travel at a maximum speed of 100 km/h, and are fitted with a speed limiter set to a maximum speed of 100 km/h.

Usually, on expressways, the oncoming traffic is separated by a 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. In case of emergencies like a flat tire, the vehicle must be pulled over to the extreme right by crossing this lane.

The broken white line is used to mark traffic lanes or the center of the road. The broken line may be crossed only if passing can be done safely.

Solid White Line

Broken White Line

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

Speed limits in German cities, outside city limits and on Autobahn.
Sign 393

This sign is posted at national borders. It indicates general speed limits in Germany i.e. inside cities (50 km/h), out of city limits (100 km/h), and recommended speed on the Autobahn (130 km/h). These speed limits are for cars, motorcycles and other vehicles under 3.5 t.

Recommended Speed Limit (Advisory Speed Limit)

A blue square sign (Sign 380) indicates a recommended maximum speed. Weather and road conditions may override. Recommended speeds are intended to create a smooth flow of traffic. In the above sign, 130 is also "Recommended Speed Limit" on Autobahn.

Start of  recommended speed limit
Sign 380-54

Start of advisory / recommended speed limit

End of  recommended speed limit
Sign 381-54

End of advisory / recommended speed limit

Priority Road

A road with a priority road sign (sign 306 ) indicates that traffic on this road has "right-of-way" over traffic entering from other roads at unmarked intersections. Outside of city limits, parking on a priority road is prohibited, unless there are marked signs for Parking.

start of priority road
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.

end of priority road
Sign 307

Indicates the end of the priority road and the end of "right-of-way".

Priority road signs may have supplementary signs. In some cases priority roads may not be clearly understandable and turn left or right instead of straight ahead. A curved priority road is indicated by a supplementary sign, which is posted below the main sign. A curved bold line indicates the priority road. Please see the examples below.

Sign 306 with 1002-12

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

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

Sign 306 with 1002-21

Sign 306 with 1002-21 requires the driver to yield to oncoming traffic from straight ahead and traffic from the right side.

Drivers who leave the priority road have the right-of-way over drivers who have yield signs. The driver who stays on the priority road must use his/her turn signal when the priority road turns.

There is another priority road sign (sign 301) which applies priority only till the next intersection. Sunken kerbstones are not proper intersections and they don't cancel the right-of-way on the priority road. Traffic coming from Sunken lane must yield.

Sign 301

It indicates that traffic on this road has the right-of-way at the next intersection.

Right before Left

When crossing roads have equal priority, vehicles coming from the right side have the right-of-way at intersections, junctions, and traffic circles. This rule applies to all motor vehicles, bicycles, and animal-drawn wagons. The right-before-left rule applies at all intersections regardless of the width of the street or the angle of the intersection. There are some exceptions to right-before-left, which are mentioned below.

Exceptions for Right before Left Rule

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

    Indicates area / path restricted to and mandatory for pedestrians.

    Sign 242-1

    Pedestrian Zone. Indicates an area where only pedestrians are permitted. Cyclists and E-bikers are not allowed to ride but can push their cycles through this area.

    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 right-before-left rule is not applicable.
  3. When a vehicle enters a public road from a private property, a private road, or a parking space must yield. In these cases, traffic on the public road has priority.

Please see a detailed article about right-before-left rule and priority rules on this page.

Safe Distance between Cars

Like speed controls, tailgating is also often measured by authorities in Germany. The driver should keep their vehicles at safe distance from vehicles in front. Fines for tailgating can be 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 a speed of 60 km/h, the recommended distance to the front vehicle is 30 meters). Greater distances should be used according to road conditions. Another popular German driving school's method for estimating a safe 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.

Rules in Traffic Calming Zone / Traffic-Controlled Residential Area

In the German language, they are called Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich or Spielstraße. In these areas, speed should be reduced to walking human speed i.e. 4-7 km/h, 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.

Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich starts
Sign 325.1

Start of Traffic-Controlled Residential Area

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

Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich ends
Sign 325.2

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

In the traffic-controlled residential area:

Start and end of a Spielstraße

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Pedestrian Crosswalk Rules

german crosswalk sign

German Crosswalk Sign

Pedestrians have priority on crosswalks. All kinds of motorized and non-motorized vehicles must yield to pedestrians. The only exception is for the tram. Parking or stopping before and after the crosswalk in 5 meters distance is prohibited. Before the blue crosswalk sign, a warning crosswalk sign warns about an upcoming crosswalk ahead. After the warning crosswalk sign, passing / overtaking other vehicles is prohibited. Please also see this article for more details.

No Entry Rules

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

No entry for motor vehicles
Sign 250

This sign prohibits entry for all types of motor vehicles. Vehicles having combustion engines or electric motors are motor vehicles. Cyclists are allowed. Motorcyclists and E-bike riders are not allowed to ride but can push their vehicles, while engines / E-motors must be turned off.

no entry sign germany
Sign 268

This is a more strict sign than sign 250. It prohibits entry for all types of vehicles. Posted normally at the end of one-way streets to prevent the entry of vehicles in the wrong direction. Cyclists and animal-drawn vehicles are also not permitted.

These signs may have supplementary sings, for example, a sign reading Anlieger frei is posted underneath the sign 250. This means entry is permitted only to people who reside or have a business on this street.

No entry except to residents and local business owners
Sign 250 with supplementary sign 1020-30

Entry prohibited for all motor vehicles, except for residents or people having a business on this street.

Sign 250 with 1022-14

Entry prohibited except for bicycles and moped.

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

Only resident's and business owners in the area are allowed with vehicles
Sign 251 with supplementary sign 1020-30

Multi-line motor vehicles are not permitted, except for residents and business owners in this street. Vehicles that leave two lines in snow or mud are multi-line vehicles. Motorcycle, e-bikes, bicycles and other hand pushed vehicles are allowed. Quads are multi-line vehicles, thus not allowed.

No vehicles over 3.5 t except for residents and business owners in the area
Sign 253 with supplementary sign 1020-30

No vehicles over 3.5 t are allowed except to residents and business owners in this street. This sign is not just for trucks or delivery trucks. It indicates all vehicles over 3.5 t.

In the prohibition signs having supplementary sign "Anlieger frei", visitors to residents and business owners in the area are also included.

One Way Street in Germany (Einbahnstraße)

One way street (Einbahnstraße) is indicated with the sign 220. Passing / overtaking in a one-way street is allowed from either side. Parking is also allowed on both sides of the road, if not prohibited by road signs. On normal, two-way roads parking is only allowed only in the driving direction i.e. on the right side of the road.

one-way street sign Germany
Sign 220-10

One-way street

German one-way street sign
Sign 220-20

One-way street

When a 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.

To read more about parking regulations on one-way streets, please see the page Parking in Germany.

German Level Crossing

Level crossing (Railway crossing) signs have 4 distance levels. The 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.

german level crossing sign at 240m

Sign at 240m

german level crossing sign at 160m

Sign at 160m

german level crossing sign at 80m

Sign at 80m

Vehicles weighing over 7.5 t 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 at german level crossing

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

New lights.

Railroad crossing rules

Parking is prohibited in front of St. Andrew's cross. Parking prohibition is different inside built-up areas and outside of built-up areas.
1. In built-up areas parking is not allowed up to 5m in front of St. Andrew's cross.
2. Outside of built-up areas parking prohibition is 50m in front of St. Andrew's cross.

At the arrival of a train, when the barrier is down, taller vehicles that can obscure the St. Andrew's cross, like delivery trucks, busses, vehicles with caravans and motorhomes must stop at least 10 m before the St. Andrew's sign, so that other drivers can easily see the sign from a safe distance.
The Same "10 m distance rule" for taller vehicles is applicable at crossings with "STOP" signs and traffic signals.

If a supplementary arrow sign is posted underneath St. Andrew's cross, it indicates the direction of a level crossing.

Sign 1000-11

Example sign: direction of level crossing ahead, here pointing left.

Sign 1000-21

Example sign: direction of level crossing ahead, here pointing right.

After crossing the level crossing, unless there is a speed limit sign, the speed limit is the national speed limit i.e. 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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