Driving on the autobahn is a little scary, let’s be honest. I would know because I drove on it!
In the summer of 2006 a few friends and I decided to do a two-week tour of Germany. After doing the math, it was cheaper for us to rent a car (even with gas costs) than it would have been for us all to buy train passes. Renting a car is not hard. All you need is the ability to be able to drive manual (after trying numerous big-name companies like Hertz and Budget, it became obvious to us that no one was going to be able to guarantee us an automatic vehicle) and a valid, American driver’s license.
Anyway, being under 25, we were only allowed to rent the smallest class of cars and we were entrusted with a cute little VW. Being German-built, we assumed it would hold it’s own. Wrong! Careening down the typically narrow lanes, we urged the car onwards (the max speed being only 180km/hr), only to be passed by BMW’s and various other luxury (and non-luxury) vehicles. After our initial shock at the country’s penchant for speeding, we soon acclimatized and were more than happy to join in on the fun.
Don’t let me dissuade you from driving your Europe trip – the Autobahn is really not as bad or as unsafe as its reputation might suggest. I have read that the Autobahn actually has a lower fatality record than that of the United States (although, I have yet to find reliable stats on this). The idea of a zero speed limitations on the Autobahn is actually more of a myth. Granted, many areas do allow you to speed your dear heart out, but just as many areas (around cities, in high traffic areas, around construction, and in mountainous terrains), speed limits are in effect and strictly enforced using speed cameras. Likewise, the rumors of unsafe and reckless German drivers are also false. German drivers, from my experience, were safe and courteous. Just make sure to move over and allow people to pass you!