Driving advice

German Autobahn rules

The 70mph speed limit on British motorways is relatively sedate compared with some of the motorway network in Germany which has no speed limit at all.

With speeds of 125mph fairly regular, and occasionally cars exceeding 150mph, things happen much more quickly on the Autobahns. One moment you may see a wide open space in your rear mirror and pull out to overtake. The next there is an irate driver flashing his lights for you to move over.

Which Autobahns have no speed limit

First it’s worth mentioning that only around an eighth of the Autobahn network is de-restricted (no speed limit). About a third is limited to 81mph (130kph) and the rest has a variable speed limit so you need to pay attention to any restrictions before planting your left foot.

Overtaking on the Autobahn

On the de-restricted sections, the left-hand lane of an Autobahn is for people going very fast only. If you need to use it to overtake a slower vehicle, check the rear view mirror very carefully and look as far back as you can. Try to overtake quickly and then move back into the right-hand lane as soon as possible, without causing the vehicle you’re overtaking to brake.

The major danger on an autobahn is the huge difference in speeds between lanes. If there are only two lanes in your direction, the left will have vehicles travelling over 50mph (80kph) faster than the big trucks in the right lane, which are plodding along at 60mph (96kph) - and even slower up hills.

If you drive at between 70mph and 90mph, (112kph and 144kph) you may find yourself too slow for the left lane and too fast for the right. This means you will be constantly switching lanes, which requires a high level of concentration. A few hours of this will take its toll and you may get tired more quickly, so take regular breaks.

Driving in the Autobahn fast lane

If you have a car that's up to it and decide to use the left-hand lane, you will need to stay especially alert. Passing a line of traffic going at 75mph (120kph) when you're hurtling along at 110mph (177kph) can be dangerous if someone decides to change lanes in front of you. To avoid having to slam on the brakes, watch the vehicles in the right-hand lane closely for any signs that they intend to pull out.

Take extra care when passing trucks and other large vehicles as they tend to have bigger blind spots and slower reaction times.

Finally, when you come off the autobahn, driving again at 30mph (48kph) on a small residential road will seem strange and you will have a strong urge to speed up. Keep your eye on the speedometer to check that you don't.


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