No Fun in Germany

When I opened my letterbox on Saturday I was rather surprised to find a speeding notice sent all the way from Germany. Apparently when I was in Baden-Baden I was travelling at 41kph (38kph after tolerance adjustments) in a 30kph zone. Or in English, I was doing 23.6mph in an 18.6mph zone.

Until recently I wasn’t even aware that speed limits below 30mph existed, but I see some 20mph zones have appeared in London down residential streets full of chicanes and speed bumps. In France, the general limit in built-up areas is 50kph and occasionally 40kph. So what did this road in Baden-Baden look like? Well, street view is banned in Germany (along with most everything else) so we only have the aerial view of Geroldsauer Straße:

Geroldsauer Straße is a 2-lane road forming part of the B-500, which puts it in the Bundesstraße category:

In the German highway system they rank below autobahns, but above the Landesstraßen and Kreisstraßen

In other words, if you drive at more than 19mph along sections of Germany’s second-tier highways you’re liable to be photographed and fined. The photo is quite funny, it shows my Russian pal and me on our way somewhere, but the road is wide and clear. The fine is only 15 Euros which I have no problem paying, either in practical terms or in principle; that’s not my point here.

My point is that Germany looks about the least fun place to live or visit, especially when compared to France. I suppose mind-numbing sterility is what happens when a largely secular nation’s middle-classes get wealthy and comfortable enough that they find it necessary to meddle and proscribe to an ever-increasing degree. But hey, if this is what the Germans want, then who am I to complain? I’ll just keep to my side of the border and laugh at things like this:

It’s also going to be interesting seeing how the Germans will enforce their millions of petty laws in a few years’ time when the effects of their immigration policies begin to take hold. Historians might find some bemusement in a country that fined people for driving at 38kph down what would be a major highway in most of the world, but couldn’t stop mass sexual assaults in its city centres.

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35 thoughts on “No Fun in Germany

  1. Way back in the day, not very long after I’d passed my test, I set off with my Dad to do our bi-annual trip to France to stock up on cheap booze. He drove down, and I took over when we got to France. I knew the way like the back of my hand, we’d always take the D940 coastal road & have lunch, then motorway back.

    Now, my car was a Jaguar Sovereign, and it didn’t have a KPH ring on the speedo – you had to press a button to get a digital readout. This was fine going down, until, after lunch, we got back in the car. And I forgot to hit the button. You can imagine what happened next…

    My Dad, who’d been reading the paper as I bulleted up the motorway, suddenly looked up, clocked we were a LOT closer to Calais than we should have been and said ‘You DO realise that motorway sign wasn’t MPH?’.

    *gulp*

    Now, in my defence, everyone else, being French, was travelling at about the same speed, so I hadn’t even noticed! Luckily, there were no cops about.

  2. And I forgot to hit the button.

    Heh!

    I do a similar thing when driving my French car in the UK, I switch the units to MPH and a digital readout changes over. Not that I care about speeding in the UK: the Germans managed to get a penalty notice to me written in French, but Baden-Baden is about 20km inside the border. Not sure Plod would manage to get his paperwork translated into French and through the various authorities here, they struggle enough in English!

  3. Or as we used to say when I was a kid, “Joke? Joke? Vas iss das joke?” From Hogan’s heroes, I think.

  4. Well if you’d done 1 mph over the limit in the UK it would have been £60, 3 points on your license, and a mandatory re-education. In Germany, the fines are nominal up to 20 km/h over the limit (in practice 25 as they knock the readings down about 10%).

    While it’s true that speed limits are micromanaged in Germany, most motorists accept they will get two or three a year and it’s just part of the cost of motoring. In your case the most likely explanation is there was a building site, or you were going past a school or kindergarten. A B road with 3 numbers isn’t exactly a major road.

    Street view isn’t banned in Germany – there’s plenty of cover of the cities, less so of rural areas. But it’s complicated, and I think Google gave up trying to comply with all the data protection laws.

  5. I was in Germany last week- Hamburg, to be precise, and I go there on a regular basis.

    I must admit, I really like Germany, and the Germans. I know it’s a big country and there’s cultural differences as you sweep across the place, but all the bit’s I’ve been to are lovely (well, excluding places like St George in Hamburg, but that’s the exception).

    The popular stereotype of the Germans as boorish or aloof, humourless or crass are wide of the Deutschmark in my experience: they are a friendly, funny bunch, who like a beer and are bloody good at the German things they do professionally.

    The beer is good and well-priced, and the food is fine and cheap enough (mind you, I tend to go there after Oslo, and anywhere is cheap after Norway).

    One thing that does worry me- on my first trip there, I’d managed to be shouted at three times after getting off the train- firstly for having a bag overhanging the cycle path by three inches as I lugged a suitcase to the hotel, secondly for crossing an empty road before the green man showed, and finally for having untidy handwriting on the compulsory hotel registration card.

    In all three instances, I responded with some good old fashioned British cheek.

    I did dampen my spirits though: right until I found a bar, about 30 minutes later.

  6. It’s also going to be interesting seeing how the Germans will enforce their millions of petty laws in a few years’ time when the effects of their immigration policies begin to take hold.

    They will enforce them selectively, along racial lines.

  7. Well if you’d done 1 mph over the limit in the UK it would have been £60, 3 points on your license, and a mandatory re-education.

    Oh yeah, when I saw the 15 Euro fine I knew it wasn’t a money-making scheme: it would have cost them more than that to administer. Nothing is worse than the situation in the UK, where speed cameras are simply a cynical way to generate revenues.

    While it’s true that speed limits are micromanaged in Germany, most motorists accept they will get two or three a year and it’s just part of the cost of motoring.

    Well, yes. I don’t suppose leaving people alone is an option.

  8. I must admit, I really like Germany, and the Germans.

    To be fair, I don’t mind them either. I had a great time in the Sauerland at my pal’s wedding a few years ago. As with most nationalities, it is best to separate the country and its government from the individuals you meet.

  9. “Luckily, there were no cops about.’

    Unlike poor old me last Christmas hurtling along on a long straight empty high speed zone in the South Highland’s of NZ only to see the white shimmer of an oncoming plod car appear coming out from a dip in the road ahead, braked immediately, got clocked at 163k in a 100k and licence suspended and prohibited from driving one inch further in NZ, this on the second day of a bid driving holiday, Mrs Bardon came to the family holiday rescue but you can just imagine the fear and loathing.

  10. Well if you’d done 1 mph over the limit in the UK it would have been £60, 3 points on your license, and a mandatory re-education.

    Do they enforce this on motorways? on my trips to the UK I find myself regularly bullied on the M4/M25 by cars doing at least 90. As soon as you get off dual carriageways I notice people seem to slow down considerably but the tolerance has to be more than 1mph even for those nice yellow camera things because I see lots of people doing 35-40 past them in a 30mph zone.

  11. I’ve seen a few 30 signs on the Riviera – generally in the middle of picturesque villages where you’d be insane to try driving faster than that given the chance of smacking into a nice stone building

    Interestingly in Japan they are gradually raising speed limits – or rather removing a number of 40km/h ones – because no one paid any attention to them and, in a reverse from the usual bureaucratic idiocy, rather than attempt to enforce them the local authorities seem to have decided that they should just remove them. Mind you even with these removed (and some of the 40km/h ones) official speed limits are still stupid slow by French (European) standards – about the same as UK ones are in mph except that in Japan they are in km/h – and almost everyone goes at least 10km/h faster than the posted limit anyway.

  12. “I find myself regularly bullied on the M4/M25 by cars doing at least 90”

    Yes, only in the UK can you have some chav in a Ford Fiesta stuck behind you bobbing about the carriage way like a startled gazelle and somehow thinking that he is capable of pushing you out of his way, a quick pump of the brake lights tends to increase their angst level as well. Strange cattle alright.

  13. “the South Highlands of NZ”: did you use that wonderful bridge on the West Coast whereon the railway line runs up the middle of the one-lane road, and you have to launch yourself across the bridge and hope that no train appears coming the other way?

    Anyway, Germany. We went on a school holiday when I was thirteen or fourteen. I’ve swum in the Rhine, I have. The Germans I’ve worked with were all OK or better, bar one. Come to think of it I once had a German girlfriend. Which only goes to show.

  14. “did you use that wonderful bridge on the West Coast whereon the railway line runs up the middle of the one-lane road’

    No, unfortunately the driving plan for the holiday was curtailed back to strictly inter-nodal journeys only with no adventurous side missions after I was grounded. I sat in the front passenger seat giving directions and not complaining about my wife’s driving for the rest of the holiday. My boys knew that I was royally fucked as well.

  15. FrancisT has it. 40kph urban speed limits in Japan are almost universally ignored, except by geriatric farmers in kei trucks. 20kph over the limit (never enforced) seems to be standard practice here in the rural far north.

    Get busted on the expressway and it costs money and points. In your local community, not being a dick is what counts.

  16. A decade or three ago I knew a London policewoman who said that they often received requests from provincial plod to pay a call on some London-dweller who had sped in their patch and not paid the fine. The requests barely merited an eye-roll as they were dropped in the bin.
    I have no idea if this attitude was universal even then, certainly I don’t know about now, but given that the police can barely be bothered to show up to a burglary several days late I doubt they’ll be blue-lighting it round to your place if they can help it.
    On the other hand maybe it’s some EU “competence” and therefore a minor German traffic offence rates higher attention than a local serial-killer.

  17. Js,

    An unpaid speeding ticket in Germany will turn into a court order fairly quickly. The only time plod will be involved would be to execute the arrest warrant if you don’t pay that on time.

  18. In the USA only people can be given speeding tickets, not cars. I loaned my car to a friend, and a few days later I got a speeding ticket in the mail. I said, “Not me, here’s a copy of my driving license (which has a photo on it) to prove it”, and that was the end of that. One local took this too far. He wore a full-face Mickey Mouse mask and ignored the speed limits. The cops were so pissed they figured out where he usually drove and were waiting for him. He couldn’t beat that ticket.

  19. In the USA only people can be given speeding tickets, not cars.

    Same everywhere I think. The penalty notice includes a form that allows you to declare that you weren’t driving. That’s why they sent a photo of me!

  20. Some A-roads (“second-tier national highways”) in London are down to 20 mph too, even ones that are two-lane in places…

    *rolls eyes*

  21. “Some A-roads (“second-tier national highways”) in London are down to 20 mph too, even ones that are two-lane in places…”

    London is well down the Agenda 21 path and if Sadiq Khan’s published manifesto for London transportation gets legs and he succeeds in being London’s “greenest mayor” then the declining number of motorists will be taking longer to drive less and paying a lot more to the state for this privilege. He and his kind have no compunction in introducing any new measures that will take more control over you. The poor will be forced to take to bicycles.

  22. @FrancisT:

    “on my trips to the UK I find myself regularly bullied on the M4/M25 by cars doing at least 90”

    By any chance, were you located in the outside (ie. right-hand) lane?

    You see, in this country, the outside lanes are for overtaking only. (In practice, there’s always someone tootling along at 60mph on the inside lane, so the middle lane is usually 70-80mph except when plod/speed cameras are about.)

    If you are one of those people who habitually do less than 75mph in the outside lane, then you really, *REALLY* need to move over to the inside lane.

    Motherfucker.

  23. If you are one of those people who habitually do less than 75mph in the outside lane, then you really, *REALLY* need to move over to the inside lane.

    I hope none of my readers does that. Genocide, serial killing, war crimes I’m okay with, but NEVER clogging up the middle lane on the motorway.

  24. If you are one of those people who habitually do less than 75mph in the outside lane, then you really, *REALLY* need to move over to the inside lane.

    I hope none of my readers does that. Genocide, serial killing, war crimes I’m okay with, but NEVER clogging up the middle lane on the motorway.

    Its OK I don’t do anything of the sort. Pull out to overtake then back in the left hand lane. And the speedo typically sits in the 70-80 section as even the crappiest of rentacars can eventually get that fast these days. What amazes me is the way other vehicles pop up behind me when I overtake in much the same was as they do on German Autobahns (where BTW there are sections of 130km/h limits and you’ll get tickets if you exceed it). My point is that these cars are going way, way faster than the official limit.

  25. In the UK, there is a 5mph allowance (ie 35 for 30) where you get the option of a speed awareness course to avoid the points but not the fine. I think you can do it twice. As the car registered owner, you have to say who was driving and if you don’t, you will get the fine/points and a court appearance.

    My wife is German and my brother in law lent me his car when we were there some years ago. I got flashed but the authorities have to prove you were the driver. As I am a member of the family, my brother in law could not be compelled to give my name. The police even showed up to his door but did not get anywhere. The funny thing is that he is a policeman himself, part of a service specialising in observing and tailing criminals so as he says often, he is paid to drive however fast he wants. Indeed, their company cars, which they choose, have to be inconspicuous but fast.

  26. Indeed, their company cars, which they choose, have to be inconspicuous but fast.

    “I’ll take the yellow Lamborghini ple…wait, what was that first bit again?”

  27. Its OK I don’t do anything of the sort.

    Good. We do have *some* standards on this blog, y’know!

  28. (In case it wasn’t obvious, the oedipal noun was reserved for those people who *do* sit in the outside lane doing 70mph or less.)

    The M4/M25 aren’t normally particularly fast, IME.

    The M23 (at least, some years ago), OTOH…

  29. The U.K. enforces the speed limits by speed camera, and a small handful of obese police in cars.
    It is common for cars to be travelling at 90+ on the Motorway, when it is not being used as a carpark. As for the 30mph in built up areas, this is ignored and the new 20mph limits in London, well the police said they would not enforce them… My wife drives at just under 30 in these 20 limits and gets overtaken by idiots travelling at 40.
    N.B. The speed cameras are painted bright yellow.

  30. I got a Spanish ticket in the mail the other day: something for “Driving in a restricted area without authorisation” in Palma Majorca last November. For some reason it took them eight months to issue it. (They did have to get my details from the car rental company before sending me the ticket, but still). I spent half an hour or so driving around the medieval narrow street section of Palma being lost while trying to find my hotel and the time and date checked out, so I am sure I drove in a street that was restricted to taxis or local residents or something, and I was in fact guilty. The fine was 90 euros, reduced to 45 if I paid within 20 days. (I like the fact that they took eight months and I get 20 days).

    I decided that the simplest thing was to pay up to avoid any potentially unpleasant future consequences. In doing so, I discovered that all the regional, local, and other governments in Spain have a unified system for collecting fines from foreigners who have received tickets. I wonder if they have a unified national system for chasing people who don’t pay later. Does anyone know?

  31. Interesting account there Michael, you certainly done the right thing in paying the fine. The days of a fountain pen local manuscript entry are far gone and these kind of things tend to strike back at the worst possible moment if left unattended.

  32. @monoi,

    Yes, there are ways out, but if abused the authorities can make the vehicle owner keep a log book, which is a PIA, and can then be used against you.

  33. In Britain, the Home Office certification for speed cameras states that they are not accurate enough for 1 MPH over the limit to be enforced; it has to be two MPH or more before a ticket can be issued. There is also anecdotal evidence that should you turn up with lawyer and evidence, a ticket issued by a hand-held laser unit will not be pursued unless you were nabbed several MPH over the limit; presumably these units have much more “slop” in their readings than just the known 2 MPH.

    A recent holiday driving around southern Scotland (and studiously keeping to the speed limits, I might add, using my car’s speed limiter system) showed that whilst the Scots do have a lot of speed limits, they have almost no police visible out and about actually enforcing these limits. In four days there, I saw only two police vehicles in motion; one on the Island of Arran and one escorting some VIP close to the Scottish parliament.

    I would therefore conclude that policing comes quite far down the list in the priorities of the Scottish parliament, way lower than making up more unenforcible laws and certainly lower than endlessly braying on about how much better than England they are, whilst running a significant deficit all the while…

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