‘Germans are not tired of cars’: Number of vehicles on roads continues to rise

Despite growing calls for more people to turn to public transport or cycling, cars still seem to be a favourable option among Germans.

'Germans are not tired of cars': Number of vehicles on roads continues to rise
A busy road near Hamburg on May 29th. Photo: DPA

German roads are busier than ever with an increasing amount of cars, according to new figures.

The number of cars registered in Germany's 20 largest cities grew last year. In total, there were 620,193 more cars on the roads in Germany in 2019 (a total of 47,715,977 recorded on January 1st 2020) than in the previous year.

That's according to the Center Automotive Research (CAR) in Duisburg which analysed registration figures, reported the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday.

In Munich the number of cars in the city grew by 14,554 between 2018 and 2019, an increase of two percent.  The number of registered cars also went up in Berlin (plus 0.9 percent), Hamburg (plus 1.2 percent), Cologne (plus 1.7 percent) and Frankfurt (plus 1.2 percent).

READ ALSO: Eight things you never knew about the German Autobahn

The same phenomenon can be observed over the past 10 years: in Munich, for example, the number of passenger cars has grown by 21 percent, or 128,000 vehicles between 2009 and 2020.

Even in the cycling city of Münster, the number of cars has grown by 19 percent since 2009.

Ferdinand Dudenhöffer from CAR expects further growth of car ownership in Germany, albeit at a slower pace in view of the coronavirus epidemic. Germans are not “tired of cars”, he said.

Struggling car manufacturers will be happy to hear it – however pro-environment campaigners and city dwellers struggling with air pollution may not be so positive.

For automotive expert Dudenhöffer, however, the solution is not to ban cars from cities, but to make them “more compatible with the city's requirements” –  to “reconcile them with the city”, he said.

READ ALSO: How our readers feel about imposing a speed limit on Germany's Autobahn

Dudenhöffer said this means changing to electric cars when possible.

But “safety-oriented technologies”, such as driver assistance systems that prevent crashes, must also be introduced more.

Traffic expert Christian Hochfeld from the Agora Verkehrswende told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the increasing number of cars on the roads could be down to the older generation driving more than ever.

In contrast, younger people between the ages of 20 and 40 own fewer cars than before, Hochfeld said.

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EXPLAINED: The changes to Germany’s driving licence theory test

Anyone now taking their written test to get a German driver's licence has a bit more prep work to do. New questions have been added to the test this month.

EXPLAINED: The changes to Germany's driving licence theory test

A total of 61 new questions were added to the theoretical driving licence test as of April 1st, both for a regular licence and several special categories. 

That’s not necessarily encouraging news for anyone aspiring to work toward earning their German driving licence. The country’s process for earning a driving licence is already notoriously difficult and expensive – regularly costing more than €2,000.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a driving licence in Germany?

However, adding new questions to the theoretical driving test is standard procedure in Germany, in fact it happens every six months. 

The relevant authorities suggest that these regular updates are necessary because the road transport system and its related legal framework is constantly changing.

But that doesn’t mean the test is constantly getting longer. Questions are added to a catalogue of potential questions for the driving test, but outdated questions are also removed. 

Ultimately the written test that a prospective driver will face consists of a total of 30 questions chosen from the catalogue. Of these, 20 will cover basic material and 10 will cover knowledge specific to vehicle class B, which is passenger cars.

Who creates the driving test?

Germany’s theoretical and practical driving licence test is continuously developed by the Technical Inspection Association (TÜV) and DEKRA, an auditing company which manages testing, inspection and certification for vehicles, among other things.

Mathias Rüdel, managing director of the TÜV | DEKRA joint venture, told German regional broadcaster MDR that the catalogue for the theoretical driving test contains “a total of 1,197 basic and supplementary tasks”.

One or more questions could potentially be created to test students’ understanding of each of these tasks. 

READ ALSO: More than a third of German driving tests failed in 2022

Rüdel added that there is not a set maximum number of tasks which could be included in the test. Instead, the number of tasks correspond to the relevant road safety content being taught, which is a result of European and national frameworks.

Asked which types of questions make up the biggest part of the driving test catalogue, Rüdel suggested that emphasis is placed on the subjects of ‘hazard theory’ and ‘behaviour in road traffic’.

READ ALSO: Germany sees ‘record number’ of cheating cases on driving licence exams

What does it take to get a driving licence in Germany?

Germany’s rules around driving licences are notoriously strict. 

Advocates for the country’s regulations say that ensuring drivers are properly trained is a benefit to society, because unsafe driving comes with severe consequences for drivers and pedestrians alike.

But drivers holding foreign driving licences that are considered invalid in Germany, despite years of driving experience, and even some German parents who have to shell out thousands of euros to put their kids through drivers’ education, suggest that the process seems excessive and over-priced.

The basic steps to earn a driving licence are:

  1. Pass an eye test
  2. Complete a first aid course
  3. Complete a driving school course (Fahrschule)
  4. Request a licence / make an appoint to apply (If you don’t have a foreign licence this covers you while you are learning to drive)
  5. Pass the written theoretical test
  6. Pass the practical in-car test

READ ALSO: ‘A year-long ordeal’: What I learned from getting my driving licence in Berlin

More information on the entire process can be found here.