What the new ‘foreigner toll’ on the Autobahn will mean for you

The German parliament has at last passed measures to create a new toll for the Autobahn, after years of heated debate with Brussels over its "discrimination" towards non-Germans. But now that it's becoming a reality, here's what it actually means for you.

What the new 'foreigner toll' on the Autobahn will mean for you
Photo: belchonock / Depositphotos.

The Bundestag (German parliament) had already passed a law in 2015 to establish the toll. But Germany was unable to implement it because the European Commission fought back, saying it violated EU policies by discriminating against non-German drivers from other member states. The Commission even said it would take Germany to court over the disagreement.

But after negotiations in November that essentially gave Berlin the green light, the Bundestag was able to pass certain changes to the measure on Friday for the toll to go into effect in 2019. It still could be delayed by Germany's upper house of parliament (Bundesrat).

The toll also still faces criticism from Germany's immediate neighbours, like Austria, whose Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried on Friday urged the Bundesrat to stop it.

“The representatives of the Bundesrat must now pull the ripcord and bring down this discriminatory foreigner toll,” Leichtfried said.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands have all said in the past they would consider taking Germany to the European Court of Justice over the toll.

“From our point of view, the German toll is illegal. We are keeping all legal options open,” Leichtfried added.

Germany is one of the only EU countries that has thus far not been charging for the use of its motorway system.

Here’s what you should know, if in fact the toll isn't stopped again:

What it pays for: Residents of Germany are going to be paying to maintain the roughly 13,000km of the Autobahn highway system, as well as for the 39,000km of other federal roads through their toll payments.

The money foreigners spend on the toll will go towards just maintenance of the Autobahn.

The toll for residents: All drivers living in Germany will have to pay a yearly toll through their bank accounts. The amount they pay will be based on the size and environmental-friendliness of their vehicle – petrol cars will be charged less than diesel ones, for example. The toll will be on average €67 with a maximum of €130.

Motor homes will also be charged with the toll, but motorcycles, electric cars, vehicles used by disabled people, and ambulances will be able to drive toll-free.

The toll for foreign drivers: Those coming from outside Germany could also pay a yearly toll, but also have two other short-term options: a ten-day toll of between €2.50 and €25, depending on the size and eco-friendliness of the car, or a two-month toll of between €7 and €50, also measured with the same criteria.

Compensation for German residents: German residents will also receive a form of compensation for paying their tolls with a lower car tax. Those with particularly eco-friendly vehicles will get the biggest discount, that would essentially make up for the amount they pay for the toll.

On top of this, residents who can show that they have not used any Autobahn highways or other federal roads will be able to request a refund for paying the toll.

How it will be regulated: Authorities will be able to recognize who has paid the toll by conducting random checks using electronic license plate readers. This data is supposed to be collected and deleted quickly.

Drivers caught not paying the toll will be fined an as of yet undetermined amount. And German officials also plan to enforce these fines for foreigners. Proof could be a driver’s log book.



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EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

The popularity of electric scooters in Germany has exploded in the last few years, but many people still aren't sure what the rules for driving them are. We break them down.

EXPLAINED: The rules for riding an e-scooter in Germany

Germany is currently the world’s second-largest market for e-scooter rental after the USA, which might explain why you have the feeling that you’re seeing the electric vehicles everywhere these days, at least in cities. 

According to a recent survey by ADAC,15 percent of people in Germany aged 16 and over regularly use e-scooters. Of these, 45 percent own their own scooter, while 55 percent rent the vehicles from sharing services.

Here are the rules for driving an e-scooter that you need to know.

Who can drive an e-scooter?

Anyone over the age of 14 can ride an electric scooter and you don’t need to have a driving license to use one. However, many of the traffic rules for motorists also apply to e-scooter riders, and misbehaving on a scooter could end up costing you points on your driving license or even getting you a driving ban.

READ ALSO: Driving in Germany: Eight German road signs that confuse foreigners

Can more than one person ride an e-scooter?

No. Only one person is allowed to ride a scooter and if you are caught riding in two, you will get a €10 fine.

Although it might be fun, riding side by side on two scooters is also not allowed and can be punished with a fine of between €15 and €30. Instead, you and your friends have to ride in single file.

Where can you ride an e-scooter?

E-scooters are principally allowed on bike paths and in bike lanes and you can only drive them on the road if there is no bike lane available. If you do drive on the road, you must keep as far to the right as possible and you are not allowed to ride in bus lanes.

It’s also forbidden to ride an e-scooter on the motorway – doing so will get you a €20 fine. 

Riding an e-scooter on the pavement, in pedestrian-only zones, or in one-way streets against the direction of traffic is also not allowed and can land you a fine of between €15 and €30.

However, e-scooters are allowed on one-way or no-entry roads which have a “cyclists free” sign.

A no-entry sign with a “cyclists free” sign underneath. This sign also applies to e-scooters. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Jens Kalaene

Which traffic light rules apply to electric scooters?

E-scooter riders have to abide by traffic lights just like motorists, and the fine for ignoring a red light on an e-scooter is between €60 and €180.

However, if there is also a traffic light for bicycles, e-scooter riders can follow this one instead.

Is there an alcohol limit for electric scooters?

Yes, the same alcohol limits for motorists apply to electric scooter riders.

This means that anyone who drives with a blood alcohol level of between 0.5 to 1.09 is liable for a fine of €500, a 1-month driving ban and 2 points on their driving license.

It’s a criminal offence to ride an electric scooter with a blood alcohol concentration of at more than 1.1, as is causing an accident with a blood alcohol level of more than 0.3.

Under 21s must be completely alcohol free – with a blood alcohol level of 0.0 – to ride an e-scooter.

Where can e-scooters be parked?

E-scooters can be parked at the roadside, on the pavement and in pedestrian zones with designated e-scooter parking areas. However, e-scooters must be parked in such a way that they don’t obstruct or endanger pedestrians or other road users. 

Parked e-scooters in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt

Which rules are there for e-scooter owners?

If you’ve upgraded from renting to owning your own scooter, there are certain requirements you have to be aware of. 

Firstly, it’s mandatory to have liability insurance and a special sticker (similar to a license plate) stuck to the scooter to show that it is insured.

READ ALSO: German words you need to know: Haftpflichtversicherung

E-scooter owners also have to make sure that they have two independently working brakes and lights. 

Which other rules should I be aware of?

As with driving a car or cycling, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone while riding an e-scooter (which is pretty challenging anyway). If you’re caught doing so, you’ll get a €100 fine and a point on your driving license. 

It’s not mandatory to wear a helmet when riding an e-scooter, though it is recommended.