Driving in Germany can be fun. As far as I am aware, Germany is the only country in the world that has open speed limits on their autobahns which means that there are certain stretches where you can drive as fast as you want.
German drivers are also very considerate particularly in cities and this of course makes it less chaotic and less stressful to visitors.
Generally the highway code (the rules of the road) is similar to most other European countries. However there is one rule that is quite different which all visitors should be aware of before visiting Germany. This is the rule of the 30 zone.
30 zones are unique, because you are not only expected to slow down to 30 km per hour, but you are also expected to give way at every junction to all traffic that happens to turn into the road from the right side. So in short, you must give way to the right. When entering a 30 zone, there is normally a speed limit sign with “30” clearly written (see the title picture above) and/or a large “30” painted on the road ahead of you (like below).
For most Europeans (except the French, who are also used to this concept, but at higher speeds), giving way to the right just seems weird. An accident waiting to happen. Imagine you are driving down a road and then a car suddenly pulls out in front of you and crosses the road blocking your path. If you can’t stop in time and you accidentally hit him, then you are liable…
Of course, it takes a bit of practice to get used to giving way to the right in 30 zones, but fortunately at 30 kmph, no serious accident is likely to happen and the stopping distance is of course much shorter than main roads.
Now, having explained the hazard of giving way to the right. Imagine that in some roads there are signs that indicate that you do in fact have the right of way and that drivers coming from the right must give way to you. There are two signs.
The first is probably the most common. It is similar to a fried egg (white background and yellow centre) on a diamond-shaped sign. This would normally be seen on roads that have long straight sections in built-up areas, such as suburbs, industrial estates, housing estates or villages. Only one sign is required before the first junction, meaning that the rule applies to all subsequent junctions too. The rule terminates either when there is end of right of way sign is shown (the same sign except with a diagonal line through it) or the 30 zone ends, which in fact technically means that the rules still apply, but we’re back to normal driving rules again.
The other sign is depicted as a red-warning triangle with a vertical pointing arrow crossing a horizontal junction. This sign is normally positioned a few metres before each junction. The right of way rule only applies to the specific junction you are about to cross. If you drive up Maxtorgraben from Rathenauplatz to Maxtorhof on the way to work at SUSE, you will notice that you have entered a 30 zone and you will also see the red-triangular right-of-way signs that are positioned at every junction along the way, and surprisingly also where there are traffic lights.