Tag Archives: driving

Beware: Christian drivers on the German Autobahn…

One of the strangest things about travelling on the German motorways is that every now and then you will pass a sign which looks like this.

Germany, it seems, has an entire network of specialised churches for the use of drivers on the Autobahn.

Now, given the way that some Germans drive, there is an obvious logic here. Before setting off into the maelstrom of grannies and boy racers, Dutch caravans and Polish trucks… including substantial stretches where no speed limits apply, it might be prudent to have a quick word with the Almighty regarding the afterlife.

I do worry though,  that German road users on the vast high-speed Autobahn network might be putting a little too much faith in divine intervention.

Many years ago, I once accepted a lift from a German nun, who was a case in point. Her vehicle was a tiny light blue VW beetle with a rosary dangling from the rear view mirror and a small statue of the Holy Virgin on her dashboard. Before setting off, the good Sister uttered a cursory prayer to the Virgin to keep us safe on our journey. Having ensured our safety in this manner, she clearly saw no further purpose in using secular means to get us to our destination in one piece…. things like mirrors, brakes or indicators. No, at a speed which was clearly inspired by the angels rather than VW’s engineers, we hurtled along the Autobahn, swerving from one lane to the next with only an occasional Hail Mary to see us safely around the next forty tonner. Only the sheer strength of her faith got us to our destination in one piece… it was certainly nothing to do with any driving skills. My nerves have never recovered.

Recently I have noticed that many Germans put a discrete fish-shaped sticker on the back of their vehicle, which shows that they are practising Christians.  Clearly, this is intended as a warning to other drivers. A car with a fish-sticker will pull out without indicating because a higher power is protecting it. A fish-sticker car can travel at whatever speed it likes, because speed cameras will miraculously not blitz them. I have become very wary of fish-sticker cars.

So I am planning to develop a range of bumper stickers which say atheist. These will be used to denote that the car relies on the driver looking in the mirror, indicating, travelling at an appropriate speed for the traffic conditions and generally obeying the rules of the road.

Anyone want one?

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Learning to drive in Germany

My son has asked me to teach him to drive.

This is worrying, particularly as he is only six years old. OK – technically he’s sixteen… but it only seems like two minutes ago that he was still driving around the garden in his plastic bobby car.  I mean, how can I possibly face this tiny child (who is now only about eight inches taller than me) being at the wheel of a car, out there, in German traffic?

The good news is that at sixteen he can’t actually take his test yet – he’ll have to wait until his next birthday, which is still 6 months away. Even better… while he’s learning, he can get to practice at the Verkehrsübungsplatz – a cute little network of streets and traffic signs for people to try out their driving skills away from the real scary German roads.

Until he turns seventeen, he can practice driving there… and he can also study for the theory test. This will involve him sitting in a classroom away from the traffic – which is pretty much what he does most days at school too.

I’m keen to find out what they teach him at the theory school. Right now, he is under too many naive pre-conceptions about driving.

For a start, he thinks that drivers use the left hand lane on the Autobahn for overtaking.  Actually, they don’t.  At least only VW and Fiat drivers do this.  Drivers of BMW, Audi, Porsche and anything with an oversized sound system are most likely to whizz round you on the inside, having sat on your bumper and flashed their lights for the obligatory 5 seconds first.

He also thinks that drivers don’t use their mobile phones when driving. I know this for a fact to be wrong. Only the other day, a white van driver ahead of me took a call on his cell phone which clearly was an urgent message saying: “Swerve across three lanes of traffic right NOW” – because that’s exactly what he did. This type of phone call is fairly common, especially on the A57.

Obviously at the Verkehrsübungsplatz, there is a 30kmh speed limit, which cramps the style of any wannabe boy racers. My son is already frustrated, as he thinks he’s Michael Schumacher.

But I like that speed limit. I keep reminding myself that all of these other learner drivers on the course are being taught the German traffic rules by their parents. Parents who are real live German drivers. Some of the kids are even learning in BMWs and Audis. I suspect they may already be up to “advanced” driving, like not indicating and cutting in. I’m expecting them to practice shooting up to the next kid and flashing their lights to overtake at any moment. I swear I overheard one Dad telling his son: “And now we’re going to practice waving the Stinkefinger at other motorists while making this manoeuvre…”

So while I’m cringing at the crunching gears and squealing clutch as we have the fifteenth attempt at a hill start next week… spare a thought for me. And next year, when you’re out on the roads, drive safely for the sake of my son, who will still believe you’re about to indicate as you pull in ahead of him…

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German drivers who cut you up…

Do you ever have days when all the other vehicles on the road seem to be driven by Dumköpfe?

I was out and about in Meerbusch the other day when a bus overtook me and pulled in directly ahead of me, causing me to brake sharply. Normally I’m not the type of person who is in the slightest prone to road rage… I’m serene in the face of idiocy. I laugh at teutonic rudeness.

But this vehicle’s manoeuvre left me spluttering with anger as I tried to find the right insult to shout out of the window.

Unfortunately nothing much sprang to mind. Anyone got any ideas?

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