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United States Air Force
Airman and Family Readiness Center
470 ABS/DPF, Unit 3485
Neuteveren Germany 52511
Figuring out the best way to get around is important when you’re in a new installation. It’s useful to understand the various regulations, local laws as well as license and registration requirements. Whether you need a driver’s license, transport a car overseas or want help buying a car, there are people to assist you at your new installation. Check out the topics below to find information and regulations on vehicles and registration at your base.
Although the German Autobahn system is one of the best highway systems in the world, traffic in Germany is typically congested. During vacation periods and rush hours, the traffic on the Autobahn quickly backs up (called a "STAU"). A "stau" may occur at caution points, construction sites, or during environmental test stretches, and will be sometimes posted. Nevertheless, always be ready to slow down when you see cars in front of you flash their warning lights.
Should you breakdown, when driving on the autobahn, it is best to try to bring your car to the extreme right parking lane, called the "standspur". The standspur is provided for emergency use only. On the autobahn, you will find white posts at regular intervals. On these posts, small black arrows point the way to the next emergency box. These call boxes are located, at 1km (.6 mile) intervals throughout the entire German Autobahn system. Simply lift the shutter and wait until someone from the local highway service talks to you, then give the number of the call box so they will know where you are located.
Advice for the Road
Here are some of the most important laws and regulations to keep in mind when driving in Germany.
Be sure that everyone in the car including those in the back seat is wearing their seatbelts. The fine for not buckling up is 60 euros per person caught not wearing a seatbelt. This fine also applies for persons not wearing their seatbelts properly. Also, if you are involved in an accident while not wearing your seatbelt, your insurance company could have the right to refuse to pay for injuries because of your negligence.
There is a suggested freeway speed limit of 130 kph (about 80 mph). Although there are stretches of autobahn that have no speed limit, if you are involved in an accident in which you were driving faster than 80 mph, you could be held partly or fully responsible.
There is a speed limit of 100 kilometers/hour (62 mph) on regular two-lane highways and a speed limit of 50 kilometers an hour (about 30 mph) for town and city driving. Many residential areas have a posted speed limit of 30 kph (about 18 mph).
When driving on the autobahns remember that the left lane is only for passing. You can be fined if you are in the left lane and are not passing.
Passing on the right on the autobahn is strictly forbidden.
Though you'll see a lot of it in Germany, tailgating is forbidden. The fine can be as high as 150 euros, assessed points and loss of your license for one month.
Never use your horn or flash your lights to signal to the car ahead of you to move out of the left lane on the autobahn.
Never make a turn without using your turn signal.
In general, a right-hand turn on a red light is not allowed. However, the exception is at a traffic light where a green arrow (pointing right) is displayed. But remember, you can only make the turn if you are not impeding traffic or hindering pedestrians by doing so.
Should you ever be requested by the German police (POLIZEI) to take an alcohol blood test, do not resist them. It is their duty to require you to do so and they can insist that you comply. Stay safe and plan accordingly; take a taxi, use public transportation or ride with a designate driver as you enjoy the numerous opportunities to sample the local cuisine and beverages.
Germany has a Good Samaritan Law that requires everyone, in case of an accident, common danger, or distress, to render all aid which could be expected under the circumstances. Failure to render aid can result in a fine or imprisonment.
State laws vary when it comes to motor vehicle insurance requirements, licensing and registration. The term vehicle generally includes automobiles, motorcycles, vans, trailers and boats regularly parked or garaged overnight. Service members and their families will want to understand their state’s laws on registration and licensing before moving to a new state. Visit the USA.gov Motor Vehicle Services page for links to state-specific websites.
Vehicles of armed forces personnel must be registered in their own names.
All vehicles must be registered through the USAREUR system. Cost for a registration is $30 for the USAREUR style plates. This is an annual registration process. The following documents are needed for first time registering your vehicle:
Vehicles must be double plated (front and back plates are required) and plates have to be mounted to the vehicle (not in the window).
You cannot legally operate any USAREUR (US Army Europe) registered vehicle without having a USAREUR Driver's License. If you are an Air Force CAC holder, you can visit the JKO website to study and complete the online training and final exam. (NOTE: There are two certificates).
Non-CAC holders can also take the test online ahead of time. They can receive authorization to the JKO site from the sponsor.
An International Driver's License (obtainable from AAA in the US-valid for one year) is recommended when traveling outside Germany. An International Driver's License can be obtained in Europe and is valid in any country except the country where purchased. Cost here in Germany is about 15 euros and valid for up to 3 years. You will need to take 1 European-sized passport photo when you go to get the license.
USAREUR REGULATION (UR 190-1, 22 Feb 00) prescribes policy and procedures for licensing privately owned vehicles (POV), drivers, and registering POVs in the Federal Republic of Germany under the Supplemental Agreement (SA) to the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).
Hands-free devices must be used while operating a motor vehicle on ALL military installations worldwide.
All drivers must present evidence of insurance which must cover the vehicle and the driver.
Auto insurance in Germany will generally cost more than equivalent insurance in the US. There are several reasons for this such as high medical and disability pension costs and the high minimum liability insurance required by German law.
All auto insurance premiums, including those from US companies, are set in euros, not dollars.
Many insurance companies dealing with Americans in Germany will fix the Euro to Dollar exchange rate at the time of purchase; this will save you money if the exchange rate drops.
One additional consideration in choosing an insurance company is un-insurability.
If you drop coverage with an American insurance company, you may have trouble obtaining auto insurance coverage when you return to the States.
Some insurance companies may view you as being uninsured (by their standards) during the time you were insured by a German company.
The POV Office has a list of USAREUR approved auto insurance companies in the local area.
All countries in Europe have different accident reporting procedures. Drivers will notify MPs of accidents on US installations. In Germany, drivers will notify both German police and MPs (report to the military police within 72 hours), if the accident occurs outside of a US installation. Drivers involved in a single POV accident that results in property damage must report the accident immediately or face charges of hit and run. In the case of an accident, if your car is disabled and cannot be moved, immediately place your warning triangle out to warn oncoming traffic. It should be placed at least one hundred meters away from your vehicle. Next, call the German police at telephone number 110 (or use a call box).
The Military Police should also come to the accident scene. You will be required to give details concerning the incident. The Military Police will also need you to fill out an accident report at the station. For the German authorities, you have the right to get a lawyer before making any statements. You may be asked by the German police to sign an accident report. The best thing to do is to write on the report, "I do not speak or read German and I do not understand this report," before signing your name.
Child Restraints/Booster Seats
All children under 12 years of age less than 59 inches tall must ride in the back seat of all automobiles. The child must be secured with suitable European Union (EU) Regulation 44-approved or U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved child restraint devices. Children weighing more than 48 pounds will use booster devices or other suitable child-restraint devices to ensure that the seat belts fit properly. Seat belts are required to be worn by everyone at all times.
Please review the Local Car Seat Safety Guide for more information.
NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen maintains a 100% ID CHECK AT ALL TIMES. Vehicles are subject to safety inspections at all times. It is the responsibility of the owner/operator to ensure safe mechanical condition of the vehicle. Strict laws prohibit running out of gas while driving in Germany, which will result in heavy fines.
POVs must meet the minimum standards of exterior condition considered acceptable in the local military or civilian community. License plates must be completely visible and the rear plate centered under the light. Latching devices, including locks on body doors, must be operational. Body rust and corrosion at locations that would weaken areas protecting the driver or passengers will cause the POV to be rejected. Paintings or markings resembling those normally used on U.S. government-owned vehicles, and markings that might associate a POV with a foreign government, are prohibited.