July 20, 2024
Roadshow readers share tales from Germany's wide-open autobahn vs. Bay Area driving

Q: Thanks for printing letters from German autobahn drivers. From my 2,000-mile road trip in Germany in 2018, I completely agree that high-speed driving is safe there, and not here. They have better roads, better laws and better (more attentive) drivers. I often drove 200 kph (120 mph) with no problems, passing lots of slower cars, and being passed by lots of faster cars.

Recently I drove 140 miles on Interstate 880 and other highways with their jarring potholes, no sight of slow traffic keeping right, several double-white crossings and two crazy slalom speeders. I only saw two CHP cars. I felt much less safe at 70 mph here than going nearly twice that in Germany.

Doug McKenzie, Berkeley

A: Many people wrote to say they enjoyed the autobahn stories.

Q: A reader referred to Germans’ “polite attitude.” I’m half German and lived there most of my childhood. “Polite” is not the word that springs to mind. “Orderly” is more like it, and if you don’t follow the rules, people around you get in your face about it. Hence the discipline.

Stefan Frazier, San Jose

A: And…

Q: We travel to Germany annually and have driven thousands of kilometers on the autobahn in autos capable of 250 km/hr.

While flashing high beams at a slow car in the fast lane signaled years ago that you wanted to pass, doing so now is illegal. You must hope that police go after slow drivers, or that the driver ahead moves over.

Traffic has gotten too heavy on many stretches of the highway to allow very high speeds. Driving late at night is often the only way to let your high-speed driving loose.

Jerry Terstiege, Foster City

A: And…

Q: I suspect one additional reason why high-speed driving works there and would not here is the German inclination to abide by the rules of law, and willingness to scorn anyone who doesn’t do so.

Dall Barley, Brentwood

A: And…

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Q: I’d be afraid to flash my lights at anyone in this country with all the road rage incidents.

Michael Babcock, Oakland

A: Finally, one reader likes some United Kingdom driving protocols.

Q: Yes, they drive on the left. However, there are strictly followed protocols on major roads. Lanes are in a hierarchy, from slow to fast. This prevents the very common U.S. occurrence of every lane having the same speed, frustrating many drivers and likely the source of much tailgating, unsafe lane changes, and other issues. There, the fast lane moves VERY fast, but safely. Folks move to an adjacent faster lane to pass, then move back to the lane appropriate for their speed.

Phil Weismehl

A: That’s today’s last word.

Look for Gary Richards at facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at [email protected].