Driving from my home to the airport a few days ago, I decided to make a comparision of driving styles on I-295 in Jacksonville, Florida and the AutoBahn between Munich and Salzburg. It all distills down to there being a “system” of driving in Germany.
I-295> The speed limit is 65/70 MPH with three lanes of traffic in each direction. Trucks and large vehicles can drive at any speed they wish and in any lane they please. Consequently everyone, including big trucks, whip from one lane to the other, in and out of traffic at will. Looking on from a rear-ward vantage point, the highway looks like a race track with vehicles switching from one lane to the other just to get around slower moving vehicles.
AUTOBAHN> Trucks are mandated to drive in the far right-hand lane. Their speed is regulated by a governor on the engine to 80, 90, or 100 Km/H. Often there are four lanes of traffic in each direction, but regardless of the lane count, each lane has an implied rate of travel. The lane closest to the truck lane (farthest to the right) is for slower moving vehicles. The middle lanes are for faster vehicles, and the extreme left lane is for the fast vehicles. Everyone knows this unspoken rule and stays in the appropriate lane of travel. Should a slower moving driver find himself in the “hyper fast” left lane, he’ll have a Mercedes flashing its headlights on his tail in no time flat! Additionally, depending on traffic and weather conditions, there often is no limit to the speed of travel. Electronic signs above travel lanes change according to the conditions alerting drivers of speed limits or unlimited rate of travel. It is not uncommon for sleek Audis, BMW’s, or Mercedes to zip along at speeds in excesses of 200 kph (110 MPH) or more!
If you are driving here as I am this week, follow the system, signs, and traffic patterns and you’ll enjoy your trip.