Info for Rookie Driver on the Autobahn

Old Aug 19th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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Info for Rookie Driver on the Autobahn

We're visiting the Black Forest/Alsace next month and, after a stay in Strasbourg, will be driving north to a village on the Rhine. Our planned route takes us up the east side of the Rhine on highway B36, then north of Speyer we pick up the A61 autobahn, and later the A60, to the ferry crossing at Bingen-Rudesheim. This will be my first experience driving on the autobahn. I would appreciate comments on that particular stretch of highway in terms of anything that tends to heighten stress, i.e., heavy truck traffic, topography -- you know! As an example of my comfort level while driving, I try to avoid the Washington Beltway.

BTW, we plan to have lunch at Kutscherhaus in Speyer. Any recent experiences with that restaurant will be appreciated. As always, thanks. Gradyghost
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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Hi GG,

As an old veteran of the DC Beltway, my advice on the Autobahn is to get in the right lane, do 110 kph (unless the speed limit is less) and don't change lanes.

Enjoy your visit.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 12:27 PM
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DON'T STAY at 110 km/h - Stay on the right lane and maintain an honnest 130 km/h (most people will drive 140-150 km/h)
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 12:40 PM
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gradyghost,
I'm an American living in Germany. I don't know that stretch of highway particularly, but here are a few tips.

You definitely want to go the posted speed limit, if there is one (typically 120 or 130 on the Autobahn, but occassionaly construction zones may take you down to 80 or even 60, so be sure to pay close attention). If the speed is unlimited (you will see a round sign with three thin black lines going across at a diagonal) then you will want to maintain a speed of at least 120 kph. Stay in the right lane except to pass slower traffic. During the week you may encounter truck traffic; when you do, just punch the accelerator and get around quickly and safely. Use your turn signals and do not linger in the left lane. If by some chance someone comes up on you from behind very quickly, you may be a bit startled. You will find many drivers of big BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes going over 200 kph on unlimited sections. Just get into the right lane as quickly and safely as possible and let them by. Keep your cool, don't let the crazy-fast drivers stress you out, and you'll do just fine!
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 12:43 PM
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From my experience in driving the autobahn, everyone stays on the right unless you are passing someone. There were a few cars that never made it back to the right because of their speed, but I wasn't one of them. I was not stressed driving it at all (of course I drive the LA freeways every day) mainly because there are few exits and entrances, which eliminates all the cars merging. Once you are on the road, you are set for a drive. Just be aware of your exit, because we found that sometimes towns were shown at the several exits because of alternate routes to get there. We missed one of our exits and the next one was about 25km away.

I printed out directions from Viamichelin for each leg of our trip which helped alot. Some of the rental cars now have navigational systems, which would be so much easier.

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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 12:53 PM
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The most important advice is that passing on the right is prohibited and the prohibition is thoroughly enforced.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 03:31 PM
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Thanks to all for the guidance. All that remains is execution. Looks like I drew a blank on my choice of restaurants in Speyer. Best. Gradyghost
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 03:43 PM
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It all depends... 2 weeks ago I was "co-piloting" in an E-class. Maximun speed we went was 240km/h. It feels like all the other cars are standing in the lanes and blocking everything, and you have to slow down every few minutes. Speed is very relative.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 05:55 PM
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One tip - when you're in the left lane passing keep your right blinker on - so anyone coming up on you suddenly from behind knows you're not trying to block the lane but will move back to the right as soon as possible.

And, regardless of the limit, do not drive so slow in the right lane that you hold up traffic - doing so will force everyone to pass you - making the road more dangerous for everyone.

If you're not comfortable with high speed driving you may want to consider using local roads rather than the autobahn - because in no limit zones you will see a continual line of big luxury cars - often pulling over quickly to get out of the was of Porsches, Ferraris, etc in the left lane going literally as fast as they can.

(More than once I've been doing 100 mph - not kph - in the left passing slower traffic and had cars appear from nowhere right behind me - doing 150 plus.)
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 06:26 PM
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Also, do NOT pass on the right. NEVER. Even when there are 3 lanes of traffic.

It is also easy to get complacent and 'hang out' in the left lane as you pass slower moving traffic. As the others have said there is always somebody coming up behind you so be sure to pull over to the right lane after you pass a vehicle.

Other than that it's not terribly different than driving on an US interstate, except the roads are in good shape.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 06:40 PM
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I thank you for posting this Grady. But, after reading this, 495 and Rt 50 out to Annapolis are looking wonderful.

When will you be at Bingham-Rudesheim? We're leaving for Germany the middle of September.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 08:12 PM
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The speed on the autobahns is another league compared to driving American Interstates where most of the cars are in the 70 - 85 mph range. That converts to about 137 kph tops. Slow freight for sure when in the unrestricted sections of a German speedway.

I think those Porsche drivers could compete on the Nascar circuit without changing equipment.

I remember I drove the freeway/autobahn in Austria in a diesel Opel of some description. It was straining to top 135 kph. It had little acceleration, so to pass a car ahead of me, I had to lay back, floorboard the gas pedal, gain speed, check the rear, and pull out to pass like I was on a two lane road. It was , of course, not the cars coming toward me! It was the cars coming up behind me traveling at speeds in the 220 - 250 kph range.

In the rear view mirror, it was at times, you spot it, you got it - right on your bumper, lights flashing.

The blooming car I was driving started to get on my nerves because it was either get stuck behind the trucks or run the risk of being run over.

I finally pushed it up to 145 kph, but it was making so much noise and protesting so, that I slowed it down a little. It was unstable anyhow at that speed.

Last year in Switzerland we had a Fiat Punto or Grunto or whatever - the little one. It simply was not equal to the task of freeway speeds. It was fine on the mountain roads where it could corner with the bigger cars quite easily, but 130 kph was stressful on this little thing.

The bottom line is this: If you are going to drive the autobahns for long distances, rent a car that can meet the demands, or else don't stay on the freeways for long. It's a whole nother ball game.









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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 08:24 PM
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As Bob Brown said, you would be well advised to make sure you are piloting some fine engineering. Makes all the difference in the world. We just got back from 4 weeks in Italy with a Alpha 159 sedan. Six speed manual. 200kmh (120mph) was smooth as silk. It's worth the extra expense as it makes the travel a joy rather than a chore.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 08:45 PM
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Heed the above information - it is right on. Also, I noticed that in the event of some problem on the road ahead, drivers turned on the hazard (blinking) lights to notify people behind them that traffic is slowing down. It is most helpful and considerate.
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Old Aug 19th, 2006, 09:10 PM
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And pick your times. Some of those pileups that I think are known as die Karambolagen can involve many cars.

Also around the cities, long traffic jams can appear without warning. Munich I know is awful on weekends.

Atlanta does not outstrip Munich in that regards.

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Old Aug 21st, 2006, 07:11 AM
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There are very few Autobahns left on which you can do much more than 100 kph in the right lane. The truck traffic is unbelievable (and unbelievably slow) on large stretches of the Autobahn these days, and you'll encounter many underpowered vehicles (delivery vans, extreme economy cars, etc.) puttering along at under 100 kph in the right lane.

On our trip last month I saved money by renting a compact, manual transmission car--big mistake if you don't want to end up stuck poking along in the right lane amongst the trucks and micro-mini cars. Manual transmission might not have been quite so bad if the car had more power and my shifting skills weren't so rusty. But you do want a car with some oomph.

Do not flash your lights, honk your horn, or make gestures at slow drivers in the left lane--apparently it is now considered aggressive driving and subject to big fines. They're working hard to bring down the high injury and death rates on all German highways and byways.
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Old Aug 21st, 2006, 07:33 AM
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Yes the truck traffic in the right land is horrendous.
As a passenger, all I saw of Germany was the side of semi trucks!! Hand on heart...I swear. My fiance drove in the middle lane at the speed of the "group" for the most part...but I was certainly grateful when we got off and took other roads. A few lights maybe...but I think we both enjoyed it more. We could stop once in a while!
Interesting to see a "smart car" pushing it on the Autobahn.
My complaints notwithstanding, the country surely does have the rest stops figured out nicely.
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Old Aug 21st, 2006, 07:48 AM
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I drive the Autobahn daily in the area around and north of Wiesbaden. I have a little Renault Scenic that doesn't like to do more than 140 kph and I have no problem at all. The stretches of A3 and A66 I'm on the most have three lanes and I end up spending most of my time in the middle lane. There is lots of truck/van traffic in the right lane so most of the cars just sit at about 130 kph in the middle lane and go. If there's a long open space in the right lane, then by all means move over. I end up passing in the left lane only a couple of times per week and that's usually when a truck is passing another truck and taking up the middle lane.

I love driving here and it's because the drivers are much more predictable and courteous than in all the areas of the States I've been. You don't usually find them eating/drinking while driving and you must use a handsfree device for cell phones while driving. The other thing to mention is that they've just increased the penalties for following too closely and it's now a significant fine that is somewhere in the area of 200 euros.

Just remember to concentrate on your driving, don't block the left lane, and have fun! Driving here really is a pleasure once you get over the anxiety of being on the famous Autobahn! Have a great trip!
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Old Aug 21st, 2006, 08:13 AM
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Any speed above 90 MPH in the autobahn is SWEEEEEET! Just make sure you are always in your appropriate lane. You can be doing 90 MPH and still have to be in the right lanes.

Also, make sure that you're driving the right car with the right equipment. Renault Megane or Fiat Clio are not safe cars to be doing anything above 75 MPH. Some cars can easily and effortlessly be driven at at least 100mph and above in those roads with pinpoint steering, responsive acceleration, superb suspension and traction. Have driven my 5-series at it's controlled max (US specs only) of 148mph and still got blinked on and passed on from behind by a Porche.

Enjoy, and be careful..
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Old Aug 21st, 2006, 08:26 AM
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<<<Renault Megane or Fiat Clio are not safe cars to be doing anything above 75 MPH<<<
Depend on the model (and Clio is Renault, not Fiat)
My middle class Megane is 165 hp (turbo) and is given for 230 km/h (140mph) - i never tried more than 180 kmh but it's a speed she is happy with (an i don't have the biggest engine or the sport version)
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