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‘Not always polite but they follow the rules’: The verdict on German drivers

Germany is a nation of car-lovers. But is it really true that Germans are particularly good drivers?

'Not always polite but they follow the rules': The verdict on German drivers
Drivers in Ludwigsburg, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Germans are known for their love of cars and driving, with several of the world’s largest and most well-known car manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Mercedes and BMW based in the Bundesrepublik.

There is also a lower accident rate in Germany compared to other EU countries, despite – or some would argue because of – not having a speed limit on the country’s famous Autobahn. But are Germans as good drivers as their reputation suggests?

We put the question to our readers and found the majority agreed that Germany is a country full of people who are competent behind the wheel – but that doesn't mean there are no problems.

Here's what you had to say. Thanks to all who responded and helped with our article.

How would you rate drivers in Germany?

A clear majority – 58.3 percent – described Germans as “good” drivers, signalling that the stereotype may hold true at least in part. 

Meanwhile, 19.4 percent rated motorists as “same as every country  – some good, some bad, some terrible”. And 13.9 percent said drivers were “average”.

Just under 40 people replied to our survey over a three day period. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting a German driving license

Judging by some of the responses, readers are very impressed by the behaviour on the roads in Germany. 

“Exceptional well-mannered and ‘rules following’ driving style,” said Karthik Ganesh, 25, in Passau, Bavaria.

Farhad Qazi, 42, based in Teltow, Brandenburg, said: “I've driven cars almost all over the world and when it comes to good traffic, roads and polite drivers, there is no other place like Germany. The best driving experience in the world.”

Do you feel safe on the roads?

A massive 83.3 percent of people said they felt safe on Germany's roads, while just 5.6 percent said they felt unsafe.

For some readers, a lack of cats eyes on dark country roads and drivers behaving recklessly made them feel uneasy about taking to the wheel in Germany.

Photo: DPA

So what makes Germans good at driving compared to other countries?

Overall drivers were praised. Germans tend to strictly follow the rules of the road – and this is what makes them stand out compared to other countries, lots of respondents said.

Raj Singh-Khakh, 53, in Cologne said: “They respect the rules and pedestrians. They have little or no road rage.”

Motorists “rarely deviate” and tend to “stick to the rules when driving,” added Shyamkumar Krishnan, 32, in Munich.

Peter D, 47, in Karlsruhe praised the “good lane keeping discipline” and said drivers in Germany were “more tolerant of other's errors and able to drive in all weather conditions”.

It's not easy to get a driving licence

Lots of people said Germany's extensive process for obtaining a driving licence could help to explain why many citizens are praised for their behaviour on the roads, some argued. 

Budding drivers have to hit the classroom and take part in numerous 90-minute-long theory lessons before they can even sit their theory test. They also have to complete a first aid course and sight exam before being allowed to get behind the wheel.

Basically, it's no walk in the park to be given the right to drive – and that pays off.

READ ALSO: 'A year-long ordeal': What I learned from getting my driving licence in Berlin

Sanjay, 30, in Bonn, said: “Everyone has to go through a rigorous system to obtain a driving licence so mostly the drivers who own a driving licence from Germany are far better compared to the drivers in US.”

You can’t mention driving in Germany without talking about the Autobahn, which famously has sections with no speed limit.

Some readers argued that the high quality of driving on Germany’s roads is the reason the controversial Autobahn no-speed limit system works.

Toscan Bennett, 56, in Königstein, Saxony, said: “Germans are among the best and most disciplined drivers worldwide. They are not always polite, but they generally follow the rules (which is why an unrestricted Autobahn works).”

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

What's the most annoying thing drivers in Germany do?

Despite the glowing report, drivers in Germany are not perfect; far from it. 

“I see far too many people using their phones when they are behind the wheel, which is completely irresponsible and automatically rules a person out as being a competent driver,” said Alexandria Sampson, 23, Munich.

Some people praised the overall standard of driving but called out certain habits. 

“I like the order on the road, especially compared to drivers in Texas, where I'm from, but almost every driver I've been with likes to tail the people in front of them and then brake suddenly,” said Alexandra Zimmermann, 29, in Berlin. “I don't know why they all do it, but it's terrifying!”

Photo: DPA

“The majority of German drivers are rather good, but it is changing rapidly,” said Isak Koch, 57, in Schefflenz, Baden-Württemberg.

“Aggression is increasing visibly. Sticking to the speed limit has become a dangerous thing to do. Within seconds, someone will tailgate you, even flash lights and overtake [you] dangerously.

“My wife, having recently gotten her licence, is traumatized by this constantly. Impatience has become a big issue. I constantly see people overtaking long lines of cars behind some slow vehicle.”

Adam, 26, in Kaiserslautern, Rhineland-Palatinate, said: “Before I came to Germany I had to study German driving regulations for my job. I was told Germans always follow rules and are not aggressive drivers. They were wrong.”

Others said motorists don't use their indicators enough and don't communicate with other drivers on the road.

Phil Cooper, 53, said there was a “lack of understanding of traffic islands”.

What's your tips for driving in Germany?

Lots of people said new drivers in Germany should be aware of cyclists and stay out of the fast lane on the Autobahn.

“Don't drive on the third lane on the Autobahn, always check both directions for cyclists before turning,” said Silviu, 37.

Koch in Schlefflenz said: “Get to know the traffic signs and rules. There are some very strange ones in Germany.”

James Banks, 46, in Munich, said: “Be prepared for people right behind you giving you precious little time to manoeuvre.”

Meanwhile, Sanjay in Bonn had this advice: “Do not get carried away by the euphoria. Stay calm and plan your journey ahead and be a responsible driver. Your small mistake on roads might cause big trouble for other road users, so be careful.”

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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.