It’s that time of year again: dark and foggy commutes to and from work. We all want to see and be seen while driving in that murky soup, so many of us drive with front fog lights on; some of us even drive with them on in all weather and in all environments. While it looks cool and provides a necessary function when appropriate, this can blind drivers in oncoming traffic, reduce your own visibility or make it harder for others to see your car.
According to the German traffic code (Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung or StVO), front fog lights may only be used when “fog, snow or rain substantially hinders visibility.” It is up to the driver of the vehicle to determine what substantially hindered visibility is; however, before turning on front fog lights, some things to consider might be: What is the visibility actually? Am I driving in the well-lit city? Might I blind other drivers? In addition, the local police may make their own determination of “substantial” and issue a fine to drivers inappropriately using fog lights.
Most European-specification cars have a rear fog light (Nebelschlußleucht); in fact, cars registered in Germany are required to have at least one rear fog light.
This light is particularly blinding when used improperly inside city limits. Section 17, subsection (3) of the StVO continues: “Rear fog lights may only be used when, because of fog, visibility is less than 50 meters.” As with front fog lights, consideration should be taken when using your rear fog light.
Many drivers also drive with only parking lights on (or a combination of parking lights and front fog lights) at all times of the day and in all visibility conditions. The StVO section 17, subsection (2) states that cars may not be driven utilizing only parking lights. Since driving with front fog lights is only allowed during substantially hindered visibility due to fog, rain or snow, it follows that driving with a combination of parking lights and fog lights is not allowed.
The responsibility to operate our privately owned vehicles according to German traffic codes is ours. Doing so will not only make the roads safer, but compliance with local laws will show our German hosts we respect their rules and are fully capable of integrating ourselves into their culture.
Take some time to learn the regulations. The StVO can be found at www.gesetze-im-internet.de/stvo_2013/index.html or www.StVO.de.