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Driving and Public Transportation

Germany - Driving and Public Transportation

There are many driving laws and regulations in Germany, despite the fact that the country is renowned for having no speed limit on its autobahns. The recommended maximum limit on these high-speed roads is 130 kph (80 mph). There are many accidents and multiple car pile-ups on these roads, so drivers should take extra care.

On other roads the usual speed limit is 100 kph (60 mph) and 50 kph (30 mph) in built-up areas.

Speed cameras are widely used, and penalties are severe. Driving in excess of 40 kph over the speed limit is likely to result in a hefty fine and the suspension of the driver's licence for up to three months. Cameras are also used at traffic lights.

It is compulsory to use front and rear seat belts in cars where fitted, with on-the-spot fines if this law is broken. All new vehicles come fitted with seatbelts. Children below the age of 12 are not allowed to travel in the front seat and are required by law to use special child car seats. It is against the law to use a mobile phone while driving unless it is hands-free.

The drink driving limits are 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood, and blood tests are often used by the police. A first drink-driving offence can lead to suspension of the driver's licence for up to three months.

All drivers are required by law to carry a first-aid kit and a red reflective triangle, which must be placed on the road at specified distances behind the car if it breaks down. If you have an accident, you must stay at the scene for at least thirty minutes, and must exchange insurance and contact details with anyone else involved in the accident.

Licences issued in EU countries are valid for use in Germany for the period of their validity. Licences issued outside the EU can be used for six months from the date of arrival in Germany, with an extension of up to one year available on application.

Non-EU nationals living in Germany for more than a year will need to exchange their licence for a German one if they wish to drive. This is usually a formality, but in some cases the driver will be asked to sit a written or practical test. You can find out whether your licence is recognized in Germany without an additional test by checking the relevant lists on www.fuehrerschein.net.

To apply for a German licence you need to submit the relevant application form, your passport, residence permit, 2 passport-sized photos and your existing licence. You may also be required to submit evidence of your attendance at a driving school in Germany, evidence of completing a first-aid course and an eye-test certificate.

In order to drive in Germany you must hold third party liability insurance for any damage to another person, vehicle or object. Collision insurance is not compulsory, but is often required by finance companies.

To register a vehicle in Germany, you need to provide the registry (Autozulassungsstelle) with proof of ownership, insurance and the car owner's certificate. When you buy a car from a dealer in Germany, they will usually deal with the registration procedure for you. It will also be necessary for the car to undergo a safety inspection, which must be repeated after three years for a new car, and every two years thereafter. The inspection is detailed and strict.

It is often faster and more convenient to use public transport than to drive in Germany, as the high level of car ownership has led to severe congestion and parking problems in all the main cities. Germany's public transport systems are very good, particularly the rail network. There are high-speed rail links between all the main cities within Germany, and with other European countries. Within the cities and main towns, there are reliable tube, tram and bus services. There are also designated cycle lanes to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

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