Traffic regulations on the Autobahn

To safely facilitate heavy, high-speed traffic, special laws apply when driving on the Autobahn:

  • Bicycles, mopeds, and pedestrians are specifically prohibited from using the Autobahn, as are any other vehicles with a maximum speed rating of less than 60 km/h (36 mph).
  • Passing on the right is strictly prohibited! Slower vehicles must move to the right to allow faster traffic to pass, and drivers should stay in the right lane except to pass. When passing, you must do so as quickly as possible, and it's in your best interest to do so lest you become a hood ornament on that Porsche that was just a speck in your mirror a second ago and now is close enough for you to see the look of distain on the driver's face. You are, however, allowed to pass on the right in heavy traffic when vehicles have started queuing, but only at a slow speed.
  • Stopping, parking, U-turns, and backing-up are strictly verboten, including on shoulders and ramps (except for emergencies, of course.)
  • Entering and exiting is permitted only at marked interchanges.
  • Traffic entering the Autobahn must yield to traffic already on the Autobahn.
  • During traffic jams, motorists in the left lane are required to move as far to the left as possible and those in the adjacent center or right lane must move as far to the right in their lane as possible, thus creating a gap between the lanes for emergency vehicles to pass through.
  • If you have a breakdown or accident, you must move to the shoulder if possible and place a warning triangle 200 meters behind the scene. You must report the incident to the authorities using the nearest emergency phone (see below).
  • It is illegal to run out of fuel on the Autobahn. Technically, there is no law specifically against this, but it is illegal to stop unnecessarily on the Autobahn and this law is also applied to people who run out of fuel as such an occurrence is deemed to be preventable.
  • There are no tolls for passenger vehicles to use the Autobahn. However, trucks now must pay a per-kilometer fee. This fee is collected electronically.

In addition to the official laws, most drivers follow the following customs:

  • Motorists at the rear of a traffic jam usually switch on their hazard blinkers to warn approaching traffic of the slowdown.
  • Many drivers flash their high beams or switch on their left turn signal to politely (or not) request that you vacate the left lane to let them pass. There are conflicting opinions about whether this is legal or not and why, but there are reports that drivers have been cited for doing this. While there is no specific law regarding this, it appears that such actions can be construed to violate Germany's coercion laws, so do so at your own risk.