Peter Sontag

It was fascinating and educational to read the passionate article by Chris Core about the “right” to hog the left lane. However, I, respectfully, disagree with his actions and would like to introduce another viewpoint. As part of my occupation, I conduct drivers’ safety training in Germany for Americans who will be driving in Germany and the rest of Europe.

Fact: the fatality rate on U.S. interstate highways is 2½ times higher than that of the German Interstate Highway System, known as the Autobahn. About 70% of the Autobahn has no speed limit! Yes, no speed limit. The balance has permanent or conditional speed limits.

How is it possible to have such an enormous safety record variance in Germany compared to the U.S.? It’s easy — they have better training; they have smarter rules; and the penalties for breaking them are draconian. To wit:

• You have to be 18 to drive and the professional training for a driver’s license costs about $3,000 and up. What do you think is THE most given birthday present for an 18-year-old in Germany? Of course, paying the $3,000 for the driving school.

• The driver’s test in Germany not only assesses your driving ability, but your knowledge as to how a car works, and parallel parking testing is mandatory. For example, when my mother took her driver's test, the examiner said, “Please pull over and change the right rear tire!” My mother got out and changed the right rear tire.

• Rechtsfahrgebot is enforced rigorously. If you are not passing you must move to the right and stay there. If you fail to do so you will get a ticket for “obstruction.” Mr. Core, you’re a prime candidate for a ticket.

• The corollary is that if you pass on the right, like we do every day on I-75, in Germany you’d lose your license for one year!

• Every car must pass the annual "TÜV" Inspection and must be in flawless repair. “Junkers” are not permitted.

• There is “no” drunk driving in Germany. If you have an accident and you fail the .05 mg maximum, you face a 6-month jail sentence and you lose your license for life. If the accident caused injuries, they would impound the car! If it’s a rental car – you just bought it. To have a DUI in Europe is a total anathema – you’d be a social outcast.

By comparison, in Florida and, on average, in the rest of the U.S. the legal alcohol limit is 60% higher than Germany, at .08 mg! Draw your conclusions.

I oppose Mr. Core’s self-righteous parochial attempts to enforce the law. I also believe you can’t change human nature. If someone is in a hurry, like a physician heading to a hospital for an emergency surgery, Mr. Core’s action will substantially increase the probability of causing an accident. Move over please and save a life. 


Sontag is founder and CEO of Fast Lane Travel Inc., an Oldsmar-based firm that offers luxury driving tours of Europe and the U.S.