What can Germany do to improve its Autobahn network?

More education for drivers, extra lighting and efficient maintenance: these are some of the suggestions from Local readers on how to improve Germany’s famous Autobahn network.

What can Germany do to improve its Autobahn network?
Photo: DPA

When we reached out to ask what you think about the highways in Germany, we were overwhelmed by the huge response.

As we reported, more than 70% of respondents to our survey said there should not be a general speed limit on Germany’s Autobahn.

READ ALSO: How our readers feel about imposing a speed limit on Germany's Autobahn

But readers also had strong feelings on what authorities – and motorists – could do to make the highways safer, more efficient and enjoyable for all road users.

Better signage and efficient maintenance

Lots of readers said some small changes would make a big difference.

“Cat's eyes, better road markings using reflective paint, fewer roadworks and limits that don't switch from fast to super slow for very short stretches,” suggested a respondent based in Munich. “More patient driving and courtesy for other road users” would improve the Autobahn experience, the reader added.

“Better signage at intersections, such as the junction number printed on the overhead signs on approach to the junction, instead of just on top of the 300m marker board, as is the case now,” suggested another reader.

Many readers called for more efficient maintenance programmes. “More timely maintenance, especially on bridges, so that roadworks are less disruptive when they do occur,” said one reader. In a similar vein, another reader said: “Finish all the construction works and then don't let them deteriorate this badly again.”

“It would be good to finish long running construction projects on the Autobahn,” said one person, citing the Munich to Stuttgart road.  

READ: Greens call for speed limit on Germany's Autobahn

READ: Eight things you never knew about the German Autobahn

Change the layout

Several readers suggested that changes to the layout of the motorways would be beneficial to drivers. One person said that “longer merge lanes when entering the highway where there are only two or three lanes” would be safer for all.

Meanwhile, a respondent to our survey suggested Autobahn driving would be safer and easier if the road had more exits. 

One person suggested “better asphalt” in some parts of the Autobahn would help to make surfaces smoother.

Another reader said introducing 'smart motorways' as seen in the UK, would be beneficial.

A smart motorway is a section of the highway which utilizes active traffic management (ATM) methods, like variable speed limits and using the hard shoulder as a running lane when the road is busy. It's intended to reduce congestion and carbon emissions.

Some readers suggested looking for inspiration in other places including Los Angeles and the Netherlands.

READ ALSO: Fact check – will a speed limit on Germany's Autobahn be beneficial?

Germany's Autobahn is famous throughout the world. Photo: DPA

Stricter rules for drivers

Respondents to our survey said tighter regulations on drivers would make the Autobahn safer.

“Imposing regular medical checks for elderly drivers, enforcing the rule of keeping to the right and stricter fining of aggressive drivers,” suggested one reader.

The respondent added that a harder line should also be taken on drivers who cause accidents, such as by not checking their rear-view mirror before changing lanes or by blocking fast lanes by overtaking at a speed that's too low.

One reader also suggested that lorries should be forced to slow down when being overtaken.

Another respondent said there should be “more strict rules when applying for drivers licenses”.

“Educate learner drivers better on using the Autobahn before they are allowed to get their licence,” said another reader.

READ ALSO: 'Shame on you': Police officer praised for confronting prying drivers

'Set a speed limit'

Although the majority of respondents to our survey said Germany shouldn’t opt for a general speed limit, some people suggested that more consistent speed limits would make the roads safer.

“Setting a consistent speed limit without so many speed limit changes every few kilometers” would be an improvement, suggested one respondent.

Another reader said: “A general speed limit and a campaign to encourage better manners and consideration of others while driving.

However, another reader said more areas where no speed limit is in place would help the flow of traffic better.

Proposals to impose speed limits on the motorways, which are famous for having no speed restrictions in some sections, have long divided the country.

Some argue that putting a general speed limit in place (often touted as 130km/h, equivalent to about 80mph) would make roads safer and reduce carbon emissions.  

However, for many people inside and outside Germany, the speed limit-free motorways are a strong part of the country's car culture.

The debate was ignited again last month when the Green party put forward a motion in the Bundestag urging the government to install a general speed limit of 130km/h. 

Almost 130 people took part in our survey which was live for just under two days last month.

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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.