Getting stationed in Germany is probably one of the best things that can happen in your military career. You get the chance to travel Europe for three years and experience a whole new way of life. As part of moving to Germany, you also get to ship your POV free. You can also get some good deals on cars through various military sales programs as well. Having your own transportation is a staple of American living and it opens a lot of possibilities here. However, like any country, there are rules and regulations. I always find people asking what happens if they get a ticket, how much it costs, and what are the penalties.
First off the good news!
Due to some strange disconnect or possibly just people not wanting to make the effort, your traffic fines in Germany don’t make it to your insurance. When you live in America and shop for car insurance that is one of the first things they tend to ask. I’m not saying that it is impossible but in my eight years of living here I have not had a traffic violation reported. Nor have I heard it happen to anyone else. If you have a different experience, please let us all know in the comments.
Now for the second, slightly still good news. Traffic fines in Germany tend to be quite small. Fines for speeding start at 15 EUR in city limits and 10 EUR outside of city limits. Those small fines are for exceeding the speed limit up to 10 km/h and hour. Speeding up to 20 km/h only results in a fine of 35 EUR and 30 EUR respectively. These are the most likely tickets you are going to receive. You will probably be in a unknown area and moving with the flow of traffic. Unfortunately, everyone else will know where the speed camera is and slow down. You will probably just cruise right into it and get your picture taken. Don’t forget to smile!
Don’t let these small tickets get you down. I remember my first blitzer. I was angry and scared and didn’t know what was going to happen. Just like in the states, it can be unnerving to get ticketed. However, the attitude in Germany is almost as if these small fines are just part of life. You will get blitzed and you will get a small ticket in your CMR. Just pay it online or at the bank and be on your way. Now, if you are really speeding, be prepared to fork it out. More on that in a minute.
Because Germany relies heavily on speed cameras and not active enforcement, most speeding tickets come from getting “blitzed”. It is possible to find active speed enforcement in certain areas but these mainly consist of a parked patrol car with a team that is scanning and processing tickets. There are also unmarked cars that rove the autobahn looking for violators. These cars are, in my experience, most often unmarked BMW 5 series with an antenna somewhere on the roof or trunk. During my time here I have only been stopped once by one of these cars. The polizei however, had no idea about Americans in Germany or our USAEUR license system. Typically if you are stopped they will ask you to pay the fine in cash on the spot. Should you not have the money, they will follow you to an ATM to retrieve it. In my situation, they were quite confused and simply took my address and wished me a pleasant day.
Where there is good news, there is also bad news…
While you may count your lucky stars for everything you read above, don’t get excited yet. It may be true that Germany doesn’t practice much “active” enforcement but they still control their streets with the precision and efficiency that Germans are renowned for.
Speed cameras or “blitzers” comes in many forms from older single camera models to modern multi camera systems that do front and back photos. They can also be fixed or mobile. The fixed cameras are easy to find and remember. You may get caught by one of these every once in a while but soon you will learn your areas and remember where they are. The more tricky kind is the mobile cameras. Polizei pride themselves in disguising these little devils so you never see them until it is too late. You may often see on coming traffic flashing their high beams at you. This is a friendly little warning (it is also illegal…) that there is a speed camera set up. You can also listen on the radio for speed camera reports or search online. There are also some phone apps that let people report camera positions. In my experience it is simply easier to just follow the rules.
Now I know what some of you will say. Just don’t speed! Very true words right there and ones we should all follow. However, I can promise you that at some point you will be tired or in a hurry and just trying to keep with traffic. There is probably a good reason that the slower speeding tickets are such small fines. They serve as just a little reminder to watch your speed. If you really are a speed monster however, get ready for some trouble. As soon as you cross the 21 khp threshold in city limits, the fine jumps to 80 EUR. Anywhere between 31-40 khp (19-24 mph) over the limit in the city awards you a 160 EUR fine, 3 points, and a 1 month suspension of your license! Outside the city limits, speeding from 41-50 kph will get you the same results.
Remember, you can only get 12 points on your license in a one year period and 18 in two years. After 12 points, your license is automatically suspended for 6 months. While your command has some leeway with such suspensions, it is still a common occurrence. Unless you can convince your chain of command that your lack of a license will severely impair your job performance, get ready to buy some walking shoes. Don’t forget that this type of leeway will probably only be granted to a working service member. Your spouse or child will not be so lucky. I have also seen cases where the offender was only allowed to drive to and from work. Below are the full schedule of fines for Germany. These were updated and released 1 April 2013.
Table of penalties for speeding in built-up areas
|Speed limit exceeded by
[kilometres per hour]
|Up to 10||15|
|11 to 15||25|
|16 to 20||35|
|21 to 25||80||1|
|26 to 30||100||3|
|31 to 40||160||3||1|
|41 to 50||200||4||1|
|51 to 60||280||4||2|
|61 to 70||480||4||3|
Table of penalties for speeding outside built-up areas
|Speed limit exceeded by
[kilometres per hour]
|Up to 10||10|
|11 to 15||20|
|16 to 20||30|
|21 to 25||70||1|
|26 to 30||80||3|
|31 to 40||120||3|
|41 to 50||160||3||1|
|51 to 60||240||4||1|
|61 to 70||440||4||2|
You can see how the fines rapidly increase from those small beginner fines. I have made it eight years without ever having my license suspended or being informed that I was close on points. Like I said before, you will probably get blitzed once or twice on your tour here. Just remember to try and keep to the speed limits.
This article only covered the fines for speeding but there are plenty of other violations that can incur much steeper penalties. For a complete list of traffic violations from the German Ministry of Transport click here. The page is published in English and covers everything from speeding to right of way. Pay particular attention to the first section on distance. You might want to keep it in mind the next time you are tailgating someone or being tailgated. (black audi wagons anyone?)
If you have a good story about a traffic fine let us know in the comments below. Keep it safe out there and have fun in Europe!