Right of Way, Right before Left and other Priority Rules in Germany
This page contains topics:
- Right-of-Way, General Rules
- Right-of-Way in Parallel Moving Traffic
- Right-of-Way while Changing Lanes
- Right-of-Way in Intersecting Traffic
- Right before Left
- Exceptions to Right before Left Rule
- Traffic Signs Regulating Right-of-Way
- Right-of-way on Curved Priority Road
- Turing Left or Right on Traffic signals
- Road Crossing Rules Regarding Pedestrians
- Roundabout Rules in Germany
Right of Way
To understand the right of way, it does not matter where a road user wants to proceed, only important is, where it comes from. Whether it comes from a priority road or from a green signal or from a road where a police officer is regulating the traffic. Right of way applies to all road users. No matter a car, a motorbike, a bicycle, a pedestrian, a hand pushed non-motorized vehicle etc.General rules regulating right-of-way are:
- Buses pulling into traffic from marked bus stops have the right-of-way. Bus drivers indicate their intention to enter the flow of traffic with their turn signals.
- Funeral processions have the right-of-way over other traffic.
- Emergency vehicles (ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, and other vehicles identifiable by their flashing blue lights and multitone warning signals) have special right-of-way privileges. Drivers must pull over to the right and stop if necessary, when emergency vehicles approach. When emergency vehicles approach an autobahn traffic jam (Stau), drivers are required to move their vehicles to the extreme right or left, depending on the lane occupied, to permit the emergency vehicle to pass through the center of the congestion. On three-lane Autobahns, clearance (rescue alley) must be made between left and center lanes.
- Streetcars have priority over other traffic when tracks go through a traffic circle and sign 101 with a supplemental sign or sign 205 is posted with a silhouette of a streetcar with the word Straßenbahn or Straßenbahn Vorfahrt.
A general danger sign. Indicates approaching dangerous area. For example, road work. A supplementary sign may explain the danger. Also Posted before roads with streetcar tracks along with suplementy sings.
Yield Right-of-Way. Indicates driver must yield to traffic on the upcoming priority road. If necessary, come to a complete stop to allow traffic on the priority road to clear before proceeding.
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Right-of-Way in Parallel Moving Traffic
Straight ahead moving traffic has priority over turning traffic, provided both are on the same road .
In below illustraion, Vehicle A wants to intersect vehicle B which is moving in its own lane. Vehicle B has the right-of-way in its lane and vehicle A must yield to vehicle B and also wait for the clear way after vehicle B before proceeding.
In an intersection or junction, the left turning vehicle must yield to oncoming traffic.
Similarly, if there is a bicycle lane or a bus on the right of the same road, the right turning vehicle must yield to the cyclist or bus, whatever the case.
Also, if there is a pedestrian marked way on the turn, the turning vehicle must yield to any pedestrian crossing the road. Pedestrians road crossing rules on unmarked roads are explained under a separate heading.
Notice that in above image, signal is turned green, but also the signal for pedestrian crossing is green. Pedestrians are walking in their own lane and car wants to cross their lane, so pedestrians have right of way and cross the road first then the vehicle would proceed.
If the green light has an arrow (as showen in the below illustration), then the vehicle may turn without considering pedestrians because the arrow indicates all other signals are turned red in the given time.
In all the above cases, busses, cyclists or pedestrians don't have any exceptional right-of-way. They are normal road users like any other vehicle. All these rules apply because they are moving parallel in their own lane and they have the right-of-way in their own lane over the intersecting traffic/road users.
If both of the vehicles have to turn to the same road, the left turning vehicle yield to the vehicle that has a right turn. Please see the below illustration.
Right of Way while Changing Lane
The vehicle traveling in a lane has a right of way (Vorrang) in its own lane. When a vehicle from another lane turns on the indicator to change the lane, the lanechanger is actually "requesting" the vehicle behind him in the intended lane to give place for lane change maneuver.
If a rear-end collision occurs, usually the liability is on the driver who has changed the lane. However, in some cases, a partial liability of other driver may be present if for example, he suddenly accelerated which the lanechanger could not foresee.
According to StVO page 7 para 5: In all cases, a lane may only be changed if a hazard to other road users is "excluded". Every lane change must be announced in an advanced time and clearly.
Exception is only for public buses, when they want to depart from their marked stops. This is indicated on page 20 para 5 of StVO: "Public buses and school buses must be allowed to depart of marked stops, when they turn on their signals. If necessary, other vehicles must wait." Trams in the city comes under same rules as buses, so they are automatically included in above exception.
Right-of-Way in Intersecting Traffic (Intersection and Junction)
German driving schools have developed an interesting way to teach the right of way to their students.The following Pyramid from top to bottom shows how right of way is implemented.
As the above pyramid shows police officer standing on the road and regulating the traffic has the topmost priority to establish the right of way for traffic. For example, if a police officer regulating the traffic, signals a vehicle stopped at a red signal to drive on, the vehicle must follow the officer's instructions and ignore the red signal. But that is very rare and police officers come to control the traffic in only an emergency situation.
Next in priority list comes the traffic signals. Which have priority over traffic signs.
In the absence of a traffic light or traffic sign on an intersection or junction, "right before left" rule becomes automatically applicable.
The above pyramid, from bottom to top is discussed in detail below.
Right before Left
Right before left rule is applicable in intersections and junctions (a place where vehicles have to cross perpendicular to each other).
If there are no traffic signs or signals in an intersection or junction, a vehicle approaching from the right has right-of-way over a vehicle on its left. Please see the below examples.
Examples of Right before Left Rule
In the illustration below, the vehicle A comes from the right of vehicle B.
The vehicle B comes from the left for the vehicle A.
There are no traffic signals or traffic sign boards. In this case the rule "right before left" is applied, so the vehicle A has priority.
It does not matter if any of the vehicles wants to turn or not, vehicle A comes from the right and must be allowed to proceed first.
It does not matter how wide a road is. The width of the road does not say anything about the right-of-way / priority laws.
When there are three vehicles in an intersection. It doesn't matter where they want to proceed. As discussed in beginning, the only important thing in right-of-way is, from where a road user comes. They must follow the following sequences according to the right before left rule.
In the above illustration, vehicle A crosses the intersection first as it has no vehicle coming from its right.
When the vehicle A is gone, the vehicle B has no right neighbor and is allowed to drive.
Finally, the vehicle C is left and may cross the intersection.
Of course, a situation can arrive when vehicles can come from all four directions. Please see the illustration below.
In the above situation, each vehicle has a vehicle on its right. One vehicle must renounce its right-of-way and driver should give a hand signal. The vehicle that gives up its right-of-way can only allow or signal a vehicle on its left to proceed because vehicle on the right already has right-of-way over left one.
For example, vehicle D can only signal vehicle A, as vehicle D has right-of-way over A. Once vehicle D has cleared the way, the rest of vehicles can proceed according to right before left rule.
The right-before-left rule is only considered when a route crosses another route. For example, in the following situation, there is no consideration of right-of-way or priority because both vehicle,s routes are not crossing.
Exceptions to Right before Left
Right before left rule is not applicable in following situations:
- When a vehicle comes from a field, forest or a meadow path.
- When a vehicle comes from a traffic-calming zone or a pedestrian zone.
- When a vehicle comes from a property entrance.
- When a vehicle comes from the edge of the bicycle lane or another part of the same road. (When a vehicle changes its lane on the same roadway.)
- When a vehicle enters a road from a road shoulder or ramp.
Traffic Signs Regulating Right-of-Way
There are four main traffic signs that regulate the right of way on crossings or intersections in absence of traffic lights.
Yield right-of-way! Drivers must yield to traffic on the crossing priority road. This is only triangular sign facing the corner downwards, so it can also be recognized from the backside.
Stop and yield right of way! Driver must stop at this sign and yield to traffic on priority road. This sign impliments "yield right of way" more strictly than the previous one.
Indicates that this road has priority, "only" at the next crossing or intersection.
This road has priority at all intersections or crossings till the sign 307 cancels the priority.
End of Priority Road
If there are traffic sings installed in an intersection or crossing, the right before left rule is no more applicable. In case of sign 205 or sign 206 , not only from the right side approaching traffic has right-of-way but also vehicles coming from the left have right-of-way. Sign 205 is the only triangle sign in all the German traffic signs which has corner facing downwards, while sign 206 is the only hexagon sign and that’s why both can also be recognized from backside.
Priority road sign is posted before the intersection inside buildup areas and after the intersection outside buildup areas. The stop sign is often assisted by a thick white line, called stop line (Haltelinie). Driver must stop the vehicle before this stop line before proceeding.
Some traffic signal posts can also have traffic signs attached to them. It can be on the top of traffic lights, below the lights or attached to the side of the lights. These traffic lights are turned off at night, that's why they have traffic signs attached to them. In normal daylight conditions when signal's lights are working, they have priority over traffic sign boards attached to them. After the traffic lights have been switched off or the yellow light is blinking, vehicles must follow the signs attached to the traffic light post.
In the above illustration, although the signal shows green light but there is a stop sign attached to it. As long as singal is switched on and working its lights have priority over the sign attached to it. After the signal is switched off, the sign shows that traffic on this road must yield to the traffic on priority road.
Kinked or Curved Priority Road
These roads have the a supplementary sign attached to the priority road sign. which shows the course of priority road. The thick curve indicates the course of priority road.
Sign 301 with 1002-10
Indicates that traffic on the priority road (indicated by the wide, curved black line) has the right-of-way at the next junction.
Sign 306 with 1002-21
Indicates that this road has priority.
Please note that vehicle following the course of kinked priority road must also blink.
Traffic Rules in an Intersection on a Curved Priority Road
In above illustration, general right before left rule is not applicable because priority is assigned through sign boards and road markings. Traffic coming
from road A and road D has right of way.
This intersection has road markings, but there can be some intersections without lines or road markings, so the driver must pay attention to signboards. For example, in winter months lines can be hidden under snow.
1. In the situation illustrated below, a vehicle from the road A wants to drive to the road C and at the same time, a vehicle from the road D also wants to drive to the road B.
If the intersecting roads have the same level of priority, right before left rule is applied. The vehicle coming from road A has priority over the vehicle approaching from the road D, as road A is on the right of road D. The same rule applies if both vehicles want to drive to the road B or road C simultaneously.
2. In the second situation illustratd below, there is no vehicle on the priority road, a vehicle from the road B wants to drive to the road D and at the same time a vehicle from the road C wants to drive to the road A.
The vehicle coming from road C has priority over vehicle coming from road B, as road C is on the right of road B. The same rule applies if both vehicles want to drive to the road A or road D simultaneously.
Basic traffic signals in Germany are same red, yellow and green. However, there is a special sequence to consider from red to green and then backward from green to red. This sequence is common among many other Europian countries.
From red to green
1. Red is stop and next comes red and yellow simultaneously.
2. Red and yellow turn off and green turns on.
From green to red
1. Green turns off and yellow turns on.
2. Yellow turns off and red turns on.
So, if a vehicle comes around a corner and driver sees a yellow light, he/she must be ready to stop. As after only yellow light comes the red. If both yellow and red lights are on, they indicate next will be green .
Turing Left on Green
In an intersection, while turning left on a green signal, a vehicle must yield to oncoming traffic because parallel traffic has right of way in its own lane.
Turning left on red
This situation can only arrive in a one-way-street (Einbahnstrasse).
Turing Right on Red
Contrary to many countries, turning right on only red is not allowed. There are two conditions in which turning right is allowed.
- If there a green arrow attached to the red light.
- If there is another traffic signal attached to the right of the main signal. Please see the diagrams below.
In first situation, when a green arrow is attached to the right side of red light, turning right is permitted but driver should stop and look for a clear way before proceeding. Also, look for bicycles on the right and any pedestrian, if there is a crosswalk. This green arrow doesn't indicate right-of-way. It just allows to turn carfully. This sign is attached to the top corner of light signal, exactly in front of the red light.
The second condition is an additional signal attached to the right of the main signal. This additional signal has only two lights i.e. green and red. When green arrow on this additional signal is on, that indicates all other signals for parallel traffic are now red.
It means when the green arrow light is on, any bicycle lane has red, any pedestrian's crosswalk has red, or any other street light on the right has red and the way is clear. Please check the difference between attachment positions of this additional signal and the above explained arrow sign on the traffic signal.
Road Crossing Rules Regarding Pedestrians
Pedestrian road markings and signal has already been explained in the above topic. This topic explains situations without road markings and signals.
Pedestrians are also normal road users they don't have any special right-of-way, and there are rules regarding crossing the road. These are explained in the following example situations.
The example illustrations below shows an intersection. The traffic in the illustration includes cars, cyclists and pedestrians.
Any road user who leaves its lane (i.e road lane, bicycle lane/path, pedestrian's side walk etc), msut let the other road users on their own lane pass. As the basic rule in parallel moving traffic is, "straight ahead moving traffic has priority over turning traffic, provided both are on the same road".
In above illustration, vehicle A and Vehicle B from the road 2 want to turn to road 1. Pedestrian C and cyclist D are also moving on the road 2 and want to go straight ahead on road 2. Road user A and B want to cross the lanes of road users C and D. Both C and D have right-of-way in their own lanes over any intersecting traffic. So both of the vehicles A and B must yield to C and D.
Vehicle B has priority over pedestrian D as the pedestrian is coming from a different road than the car, so no priority.
Similarly, Vehicle A has priority over pedestrian C, because C is coming from a different road.
In above situation, in order to have priority over the cars, they would need a pedestrian's crosswalk (zebra crossing).
Pedestrian C and vehicle B are moving on the same road 2, so the pedestrian C has priority over vehicle B. The pedestrian A comes from a different road, that's why vehicle B has priority over him.
It does not matter the road continues or ends. At the T-intersection below, it's the same order as described above at the intersection with crossing roads.
When the vehicle is turning right, the same rule follows. Please see the illustration below.
Or the direction of pedestrians should not create any confusion: Below is the same above case.
Roundabout rules in Germany
Before roundabouts, the roundabout sign (sign 215) is always posted underneath "yield" sign (sign 205). That indicates the traffic entering a roundabout must yield to the traffic already moving in the roundabout. Inside roundabout, there are no extra signs.
- Inside roundabout parking or stopping is prohibited.
- A roundabout must be approached from right side.
- Vehicle leaving the roundabout must use their turn signals. Vehicle entering the roundabout should not use turn signals. If you blink while entering a roundabout, the following driver might think you want to leave the roundabout straight away.
- Vehicle leaving a roundabout must yield to the pedestrians and cyclists who want to cross the road. Vehicles entering a roundabout have right-of-way over any crossing pedestrian or cyclist.
- If a crossing looks like a roundabout or traffic circle, but has no roundabout signs, it's not roundabout. It is just a simple intersection. Right-before-left rule applies here in such kinds of round looking intersection.