Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Speeding In Germany (And Getting Caught)

Germany is known for its love of speed. Just saying "autobahn" makes some people unconsciously start making "vroom-vroom" sounds under their breath. Their eyes glaze over upon hearing the words "No Speed Limit" and visions of rounding corners at over 100 mph fill their head. Yes, the autobahn is great. But a fact that people don't often mention is that while the autobahn is full of speed loving demons, roads in and around towns tend to have lower speed limits than in America. My husband and I have been caught speeding in and around Heidelberg several times since we moved here. But it's not what you think. Polizei don't enforce the speed limits. You can blaze right by them on a surface street (most of the time) and they don't give you a second glance. How are we getting caught then?

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce to you the all knowing German Speed Camera. Also known as Satan around my house. Don't the two circles look like eyes? Staring you down. Daring you to speed. Boring straight into your soul and saying, "I veel get you."

The German Speed Camera never misses. It always gets you. Always.

How hard is it to drive the speed limit? Really hard, actually. Back home in America, deep in the mountainous/desert states of the west where I called home, places were spread out. Grocery stores and shopping malls were several miles away and what better way to get there quicker than to go over the speed limit by a couple of miles. I have found since coming here my comfortable driving speed is around 40 mph. When I zone out while I drive, I always settle right around this speed. It's really not so fast. But in Heidelberg, fast is all relative. Let me bring you up to speed on German traffic law (pun intended).

There are three things you need to know. Outside of city limits, the speed limit is 70 kilometers per hour (43 mph) or 100 km (60 mph). Inside city limits it is 50 km (31 mph). And in Altstadts (old towns) or the twisty, little cobblestone roads that are the heart of almost every German town, the speed limit is 30 km (18 mph). Not too hard. Many times, the speed limits aren't marked, just the town limits are so you better know your rules. Here is more on German traffic law.

Now you see my problem. If I comfortably drive at 40 mph (64 km) in town, I am going over the speed of 50 km by 14 kilometers per hour. Yikes. As you may have guessed, I am very familiar with the ramifications of speeding in Germany.

The problem all starts when I am innocently driving down the street when all of a sudden! A bright, orange light temporarily blinds me. This would be the flash illuminating my face. 

Although I haven't seen my pictures, I am sure I look something like this most of the time.

Or this.

What. That flash is really bright.

So I've been flashed. What happens now? I wait. Three, four, sometimes even five months before my lovely letter (ticket) from Stadt Heidleberg shows up, in German, and tells me how much I owe to them for speeding on their fair streets. I am up to four. Or is it five?

My first was a total set up. We had been here two weeks and we only had my husband's car. A turbo Saab. I was finally feeling more comfortable driving (even though I didn't have my license here yet, shh, don't tell!) and was letting the Saab really feel itself. When... FLASH!

The set up is this. On the street into town, Speyerer Straße, there are multiple signs that look like this.

This is the actual sign from Speyerer Straße leading into Heidelberg. It lets you know, "Hey, go 70 km. Just do it!" So I did. And then some.

The problem is this.

Right after the 70 km sign above, this sign appears. This lets you know that you have crossed the town boundary into Heidelberg. I told you what this means. It means you now have to drop to 50 km. The signs are maybe 30 meters apart. And then right after this sign is Satan, I mean the German Speed Camera. I got FLASHED here twice. What a trap.

The next time I was flashed I was merging off of the autobahn on the 656 into town. I was going the obligatory 70 km in this zone when Matt told me to pass the guy in front of me because we were running late. I go around the slow car and speed up to 73 km when FLASH! Yep. Three little, kilometers (1.8 mph) over will get you a ticket. Germans are hella serious about their speed limits.

I also got flashed driving away from the American hospital after I broke my thumb by slamming it in my Volvo car door (who said Volvos were safe?) When this FLASH! happened I may, or may not have let loose a string of profanities. And maybe cried. And called my mom and told her I hated it here. Maybe.

I am finding that I can't talk my way out of camera tickets here the way I could talk my way out of a ticket from a police officer when I got pulled over back in the States. I was legendary. I was pulled over at least ten times and each time I got away with no ticket. Ah, the good ol' days.There just ain't no sweet talkin' a camera.

So the next time you are driving in Germany, and every single person on the road is driving 5 km under the speed limit, watch out for the FLASH! cause it will get you. Each and every time.



*Queen of the FLASH!


  1. ha ha! is there anyway to get your pics? that would be funny! italy is worse though i heard

  2. I like how you re-created the pictures and that you may have cried and called your mom and told her you hated it there. I would-a done exactly the same thing!

  3. Kelly, I just found your blog through the Expats blog and I love it! We lived in Heidelberg years ago (all three of our kids were born there...they are now 22, 20 and 18!) but oh how I remember the speed limits...and everything about Germany! We now live in the Czech Republic and while there are speed traps here too, it's not as bad as Germany! Am bookmarking your blog so I can enjoy your adventures in Germany/Europe! (Saw on your latest post you're off to Croatia...that's been our favorite vacation place for 15 years!) Enjoy! Connie

    1. Much thanks Connie! I love to hear from former Heidelbergers! Since the Americans are packing up and leaving Heidelberg this year, there is a melancholy feel to the town. We've been here 70 years! Love to hear about your time here. email me at . Always good to hear from people!

  4. Haha found this while looking for information of the german cameras flash.. Passed 2 pretty quick today but no flash.. I do think however these where infrared ones and im still in trouble, thanks for the post though made me smile

  5. Traffic rules in Germany do sound complicated! Well, you have no choice but to abide by them since it's their jurisdiction. It just takes getting used too and I'm sure you have gotten used to it by now. :)

    Jim Irvin @

  6. You need to see how this kid is able to make
    over $2000 a month selling pictures he took
    with his camera!

    He lays out exactly how you can do it too!
    This page might not be up for much longer
    so you need to check it out right now.


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