When I was still a child, I remember that Saturdays were Car days for all men and fathers on the block. They’d be outside with their buckets, sponges and polishing tubes and cloths…working either on the car or under the hood. There was a rumor, that the German man took better care of his car than his wife.
I have been gone for many years and since my return, have not been able to confirm that this tradition is still going on. As a matter of fact, the only thing I have seen, read and heard about is the emergence of the phenomenon Drängler, defined as tailgating.
In the beginning of 2012 there were 42,927,647 Million cars registered across Germany, with VW, Opel, Mercedes, Ford, BMW/Mini and Audi in the top spots. There are roughly 12,845 km of Autobahn, forth largest road system, behind China, the U.S.A. and Spain. German roads are famous for being one of the few in the world without blanket speed limits, there are strict speed limits for busses, vehicles exceeding 3.5 t of weight, passenger cars, motor bikes and trucks pulling trailers. Speed restrictions on the autobahn do however exist, some to reduce pollution and noise, some around densely populated cities or around junctions. Advisory speed is set at 130 km/h. Maintaining order are undercover police cars and motor bikes with video equipment, as well as the Highway Patrol. Road deaths have dropped but number one cause is still excessive speed.
We are all familiar with and probably guilty of some form of road rage or another…who has not honked(or worse) at the slow poke holding up traffic? Inner city hold ups are freely associated with women drivers and more recently with the elderly(26.9% are older than 60). It is a male oriented society and driving skills appear as a birthright for most men. In Greece female drivers are commonly cursed: Go wash some plates, one of the terms of endearment to be heard and it is considered to be very risky for a female to offend male drivers with counter curses!! Here in Germany, the problem is more subdued, but at the same time much more dangerous. The occurrence of tailgating on that vast net of autobahn, brings out the king of the road in a man. Since there are no real speed limits, the left lane is claimed by the Schuhmacher in every German male and heaven forbid has someone driving on it, who is not invested by the racing bug. Lights flashing from far away, indicating the arrival of the ruler of the world, non compliance means that you have a light-flashing maniac on your tail, who blatantly disregards the distance limits between vehicles, until you have disappeared into the middle lane…43% of the Germans affiliate black cars with the phenomenon of tailgating, more than 29% of the polled consider Audi drivers as particularly threatening and 1/3 designated Mercedes owners as the most boorish offenders(incidentally only 5% of road-rowdies are women). The typical tail-gater is a male between 35 and 50, who spends countless kilometers on the road in his high-(horse)powered vehicle.
The main cause of this behavior is thought to be related to a higher potential for violence and lowered inhibitions. Every second lost, which is caused by others in traffic, is met with growing aggression towards the offender.
Increasing awareness of tailgating has led to a growing number of suits filed against the perpetrators, with potentially high fines and points awarded in Flensburg, home of the Federal Motor Vehicle Office. Offenses like ignoring speed limits, safety distances and illegal overtaking are some of the highest ranked points awarded outside of driving under the influence, failure to assist in- and fleeing the scene of an accident. 18 points is when you will have your license removed and will be forced to participate in what is commonly termed as the idiot test. Professional therapy for delinquent drivers with the goal to acknowledge and improve shortcomings in the attitude related to operating a vehicle safely and responsibly! The huge inconvenience of loss of mobility, is probably the best punishment for the tailgating sinners, but unfortunately not yet a deterrent.
(not my own picture)