Autobahn Shenanigans - Construction, Big Rigs, and Zippering

Sunday Driving!

This past weekend my family made a trip to take care of business at another military base.   It was about a 3 hour drive and it began on a Sunday.  I LOVE driving in Germany on Sundays.  First, the roads for the most part are clear!  Most people don't work on Sundays, so the roads have significantly less traffic than a regular weekday.  Second, which is my favorite part, is the lack of huge trucks.   If you haven't noticed before, take a look at rest stops and parking areas on a Sunday or Holiday and you will find them packed with big rigs.  It's because there is a law in Germany forbidding them to drive on Sunday.  They are banned from being on the roads from 00:00 until 22:00 on all Sundays and Holidays.  There have been efforts to lift this ban, but all have failed.  The German people are happy to keep a massive influx of traffic at bay and enjoy the lack of heavy trucks crisscrossing the country on these days.  There are exceptions to this rule, such as refrigerated trucks carrying perishable goods.  You will see them on occasion, but they rarely cause congestion.

Left Lane, Constantly Switching Lanes, or Right Lane?

I really enjoyed my Sunday drive but when we started our journey back home, on a Monday evening, we were greeted by a jam packed autobahn, tons of construction nonsense, and huge rigs mucking up the roads.  Thankfully, the huge trucks stay in the right lane, but on occasion, will attempt to pass another huge truck, which will take FOREVER, resulting in slowed traffic and congestion.  My problem is that I'm a medium speed driver, which puts me too fast to stay behind the trucks, but too slow to be in the left lane, resulting in major freak outs and thinking someone is about to nail into the back of as I attempt to pass in the left lane.  It's just not very relaxing.  I really do enjoy the driving in Germany though, because it seems like most folks are following the pass on the left rule, which I really love.

Never Ending Construction

What about construction zones?  Do you ever find yourself in the left lane suddenly squeezed between a teeny barrier with oncoming traffic right next to you, and a HUGE truck on the right?!  When you get to the signs with the curvy lines, it will indicate the width of the lane on the left.  If it is smaller than your car, it's probably a good idea to switch lanes.  One of the problems these constructions zones have is that many cars are too wide for the left lane.  The item that makes the difference is the mirror.  Most cars are about 2 meters wide, but the width is typically calculated without the length of the mirror.  With extended mirrors, now seven out of ten newly registered cars are now wider than 2 meters, according to ADAC.  So, in order to prevent colliding with another driver, know the actual width of your car, or just play it safe and stay in the right lane in these zones.

Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt

Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt


I learned to drive in the states, which means, there are quite a few people who can't merge, hate to merge, or simply just don't want to let you in while you NEED to merge.  Here, it should go a bit differently.  Zipper-ing is the method of taking turns when going from a two lanes down to one.  Performing this technique is critical when there is a jam in front of a construction site.  You are to move into the right lane just before the obstacle. You should not need to get over WAY before the obstacle, as other drivers should allow you to zipper in.  If another motorist disregards the zipper process, they can be fined immediately 20 Euros.