For members


What you need to know about changes to German driving laws in 2020

From tougher penalties for reckless drivers and 'gawpers' to safer measures for cyclists, here are some important changes happening this year on Germany's roads.

What you need to know about changes to German driving laws in 2020
Photo: DPA

Tougher fines

Drivers who commit parking offences face being punished more severely. In November, the government passed a new catalogue of fines, which came into force at the start of January. 

Those who do not let ambulance and rescue teams through when accidents happen on roads, including the Autobahn, face paying up to €320 instead of the previous €200.

Drivers also face the risk of a one-month driving ban and two points on their licence. 

Meanwhile, motorists who double park or park on footpaths or cycle paths could be sanctioned with €100 (they were previously hit with a maximum fine of €55).

Three-minute stops by drivers on protective strips at the side of some roads – the part usually used by cyclists which is separated from traffic by a dashed line – are no longer allowed. 

And vehicles with a gross weight of over 3.5 tonnes are only allowed to turn right in urban areas at walking speed (7 to 11 km/h). Those caught flouting the rules can be hit with a €70 fine and a point on their licence. 

READ ALSO: 'Not always polite but they follow the rules': The verdict on German drivers

Harsher punishments for 'gawpers'

Using a mobile phone to film or photograph people who have died in road accidents will in future be punishable by fines or even imprisonment of up to two years.

The “production and distribution of a picture that shows a deceased person in a grossly offensive manner” will in future be considered a criminal offence, the government decided in November last year.

These so-called 'gawpers' can obstruct the work of rescue services as well as cause distress.

Until now, criminal law has only protected living people from degrading images. In the case of dead people, such pictures are only considered a violation of personal rights. 

However, these kinds of pictures are appearing more frequently due to the amount of mobile phones around and they are easily spread online.

It is also a punishable offence to obstruct any helpers at the scene of an accident.

The Bundestag still has to approve the changes. But if all goes to plan it would come into force in the course of 2020.

The move comes after a German police officer's response to drivers trying to engage in this behaviour went viral.

Carpooling in bus lanes plus parking spaces for carsharing and e-cars

This year cities and municipalities across Germany will be able to open up bus lanes for car pooling. The prerequisite is that cars (or motorcycles with side cars) must be occupied by at least three people.

The aim is to have less vehicles on Germany's roads in a bid to bring down harmful emissions. New road signs marking parking spaces reserved for car-sharing and electric cars are also planned.

Driving licence requirements changing

In order to promote automatic cars and the use of electric cars in driving schools, Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is planning to change driving licence test requirements.

In future drivers whose licence is only for automatic cars can complete additional training with a vehicle that has a manual gear stick.

They will no longer need to complete a second official test to drive a manual car. The EU Commission approved the planned changes at the beginning of December 2019.

Insurance changes

Around eleven million motorists will be affected by a change in the 'type class' of their motor insurance this year. A total of 4.6 million drivers will benefit from paying less, while 6.5 million car owners will have higher premiums. 

Higher e-car purchase premium

This year the purchase bonus for electric cars up to a net cost of €40,000 is to rise from €4,000 to €6,000. For vehicles with a purchase price of up to €65,000, the subsidy will be increased to €5000.

For plug-in hybrids, the subsidy is to rise to €4,500 (new price up to €40,000) and €3750 euros (new price up to €65,000). The adjusted subsidy guideline is to “come into force as soon as possible” following a state aid review by the EU Commission.

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

More diesel bans on the way?

Diesel bans came into force in German cities last year – and there could be more on the way in 2020. German Environmental Aid (Deutsche Umwelthilfe) is planning to continue to take authorities to court over air pollution.

Boost for motorbike enthusiasts

It is now possible to drive so-called light motorcycles with a car driving licence – but only after extensive training. According to the new regulations, which were passed shortly before Christmas, it is no longer necessary to take a separate driving test for engines with a capacity of up to 125 cubic centimetres and 15 hp. 

However, drivers must be at least 25-years-old and have held a Class B driving licence for five years. After nine 90-minute lessons (four theoretical and five practical), they will then be entitled to drive class A1 light motorcycles in Germany. When the plans for the new regulation became known last summer, experts had expressed concern.

Minimum age for scooter driving licence (moped) reduced

At the end of October 2019, the Bundestag decided to permanently lower the minimum age for moped riding. In future, young people will be allowed to obtain their scooter driving licence at the age of 15. However, each federal state may decide for itself whether it will actually implement the new regulation.

More safety and special 'green arrow' for cyclists

This year there's set to be new traffic signs introduced to stop cars from overtaking bicycles when it is unsafe.

Motorists should give cyclists a distance of at least 1.5 metres in built-up areas and two metres outside built-up areas when overtaking.

In future, there should also be a green arrow on traffic lights so they can turn right safely. From this year cyclists are also allowed to ride next to each other if this does not affect traffic.

READ ALSO: Bike nation? How Germany plans to improve cycling infrastructure

Turning assistant system for long trucks compulsory

For new long trucks (18.75 to 25.25 meters long), a turning assistant system (Abbiegeassistent) and flashing side marker lights will be mandatory when driving on German roads from July 1st, 2020. This equipment can help prevent serious accidents at intersections with cyclists.

For existing vehicles, retrofitting will be mandatory from July 1st, 2022.

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For members


REVEALED: The key traffic violations and fines to know about in Germany

Every country has its own unique way of keeping drivers in check, and Germany is no exception. Here are the main traffic violations foreigners should know about - and the penalties for breaking the rules.

REVEALED: The key traffic violations and fines to know about in Germany

When many people think of Germany’s road rules, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous speed-limit free section of the Autobahn. Though speeds of 130km or less are recommended, speed junkies generally don’t have anything to fear when they step on the accelerator – although reckless driving, like speeding in rainy or icy conditions, can be penalised by the police.

Nevertheless, there’s a lot more to driving in Germany than getting an adrenaline rush on the motorway. In fact, there are numerous strict rules to follow – and many of the penalties for breaking them have been tightened up in recent years.

Since 2014, authorities have used what’s colloquially known as the “Points in Flensburg” system, which refers to the location of the Federal Motor Transport Authority. Drivers can accrue up to eight points on their licence for various misdemeanours, at which point their licence is revoked. 

While it’s possible to get another driving licence if this happens, it’s not a particularly straightforward process: a suspended driver first has to wait for a certain amount of time, and will then be subject to a psychological and medical assessment. 

Of course, the best way to avoid getting points on your licence – or facing hefty fines – is to have a good grasp of how drivers should behave. Here’s an overview of some of the main rules and penalties you should know if you plan to spend some time driving in Germany. 

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

Speeding fines

Generally, there are two types of speed limit you’ll need to observe in Germany: in built-up areas, drivers should observe speed limits of up to 50km per hour, and in non-residential zones, drivers can generally drive up to 100km per hour. 

As mentioned, the Autobahn does have some sections where speed limits don’t apply, but a maximum speed of 130km per hour is recommended. People who want to drive particularly fast generally drive on the far-left lane, where the minimum speed is 60km per hour.

However, even here, drivers are expected to have their car in a road-safe condition and adapt their behaviour to weather conditions, since police can still use their discretion to penalise drivers they feel aren’t being careful enough. 

Cars drive on the A73 in Bavaria in the rain

Cars drive on the A73 in Bavaria in the pouring rain. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Löb

The fines for exceeding the limit range from €30 for going up to 10km per hour over the limit to €680 for going 70km per hour or more over the speed limit. Authorities will also penalise drivers with points on their licence and driving suspensions for more severe violations. 

For example, drivers that travel more than 21km over the speed limit can expect to get an €80-90 fine and a point on their licence, and if they’re caught going this fast in a residential area, they’ll also face a one month suspension of their license. The same applies for people going 26km per hour or more over the limit in a non-residential area.

People going more than 41km over the speed limit, meanwhile, will get a €200 fine, at least two points on their licence and a suspension of either one or two months, depending on whether they were driving in a residential zone or not.

Travelling more than 70km per hour over the limit will land you a €680 fine, a three-month suspension and two points on your licence. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Germany’s tougher driving fines

Driving under the influence

The consequences for driving under the influence of alcohol depend on a number of factors, including how much you’ve drunk, how old you are, and whether it’s your first offence. 

In general, drivers must have no more than 0.5 percent alcohol in their blood to get behind the wheel. People caught with a blood alcohol content of between 0.5 and 1.09 percent face a fine of €500 and a one-month driving ban. For second offences, this goes up to €1,000 and a three-month driving ban, while third offences are punished with a €1,500 and a three-month driving ban. In every case of being caught over the limit, drivers get two points on their licence. 

These rules get stricter for anyone under the age of 21 or who has had their licence for less than two years. In these cases, no alcohol whatsoever is permitted before driving and people who break that rule will get a €250 fine and a point on their licence.

People with a blood alcohol level of 1.1 percent of higher are considered completely unfit to be driving and will face criminal proceedings that could result in hefty fines and even prison time. They’ll also get three points on their licence and a lengthy driving suspension.

All of this assumes that there are no accidents or reckless driving involved. If you are deemed to be driving dangerously while drunk, you’ll likely have to go to court and face a much harsher penalty. 

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

Parking violations

Parking violations are generally handled by the Ordnungsamt on a local or regional level, but they generally vary from small fines of around €10 for parking without a permit or ticket to fines of around €70 for more serious violations like blocking emergency vehicles or parking on the Autobahn. 

To stay on the right side of the law, look out for blue and white signs with a ‘P’ that indicate that parking is permitted – though you may still need to buy a ticket. 

A 'Park and Ride' sign in Potsdam, Brandenburg.

A ‘Park and Ride’ sign in Potsdam, Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Kalaene

Running a red light 

Though running red lights isn’t entirely uncommon, drivers who do it should expect tough penalties from the authorities if caught. The most lenient of these is a €90 fine, but if drivers run a light that has been red for at least a second and cause damage, this will increase to €360, two points on the licence and a one month driving ban. 

Railroad and pedestrian crossings

Not giving way to pedestrians at a pedestrian crossing can lead to a fine of €80 and a point on the licence. For violations at railroad crossings, the penalties are much steeper: you can expect a €240 fine, one point and a one-month suspension for running a warning light and a €700 fine, two points and a three-month suspension for crossing when the gate is closed.

Hit and run

Understandably, hit and run incidents are taken incredibly seriously in Germany. Leaving the scene of an accident before the police arrive can land you three points on your licence, while causing an accident and fleeing the scene is likely to result in a fine, licence suspension and even time behind bars. 


Tailgating penalties vary dramatically depending on the speed at which you’re driving. At high speeds, driving too close to the car in front can result in fines of up to €400. If you’re travelling slower than 80km per hour, a much more modest €25 fine is the norm. 

Turning, intersections and lane changes 

Especially when driving in cities, it’s important to signal properly, be careful and attentive when turning and observe the proper system of right-of-way, which generally follows a “right before left” principle.

People who don’t indicate when turning or changing lanes will only face a proverbial slap on the wrist with a fine of just €10. However, failing to observe the proper right of way rules will likely land you a much steeper fine of €85 – so make sure you’re clued up about these.  

Early morning traffic in Göttingen, Lower Saxony

Early morning traffic in Göttingen, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Swen Pförtner

Overtaking on the wrong side – or unsafely

In German cities, you should always overtake on the left – and not doing so could result in a fine of €30. If you try to pass another car without observing road signs or lane markings, you’ll likely be suspended from driving for at least a month, as well as getting two points on your licence and a €300 fine. 

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a driving licence in Germany?

Mobile phone and seatbelt violations

Of course, traffic violations are not just about how you drive your car, but what you do when you’re in it. Talking on or otherwise using your mobile phone while driving will result in a fine of at least €100 – but this could be much higher if you end up causing an accident.

Failing to put on your seatbelt or fasten it properly will land you a €30 fine from the authorities, while failing to put seatbelts on children in the car results in a fine of €70.

Driving in a defective vehicle 

Keeping vehicles in a road-safe is vital for any driver in Germany – and there can be steep fines for those who don’t. Unsafe deficiencies in a vehicle can see drivers slapped with a €90 fine, while driving with inadequate tires gets you a €60 fine and driving with the licence plate obscured gets a €65 fine.