Are you allowed to drive?
Get the lowdown on driving in Germany and Europe

Staff Sgt. Walter Mack

You’ve just arrived in Germany. Your sponsor picked you up from the
airport and took you to billeting. You now have a lot of places to go
and tasks to accomplish, but you don’t want to continually ask your
unit for rides. You’ve been driving for several years and feel you
would be comfortable driving in Europe. You should be OK to drive.

Wrong. Although drivers may feel comfortable driving on German roads,
servicemembers and their family fall under the Status of Forces
Agreement between the U.S. and Germany. Article 9, Supplement 2 of the
SOFA mandates that motorists must have “adequate knowledge of German
traffic regulations.” To ensure the safety of all drivers and adherence
to the SOFA, U.S. Army in Europe has developed a rigorous testing
procedure and governing regulations, USAREUR regulation 190-1 (USAFE
Instruction 31-202), that applies to joint forces in Europe.  

To qualify for a USAREUR license, motorists must attend a mandatory
orientation and pass a 100-question multiple choice test with a grade
of at least 85 percent. Study material for these tests may be found at
unit orderly rooms, the base library, or on the Ramstein home page
(under the First Look initiative/Getting Here, and look for “Driving”).

Driving in Germany is substantially different than driving in the U.S.
Upon successful completion of the orientation and test, motorists will
immediately receive a temporary license which will allow them to drive
and register a privately owned vehicle under the USAREUR vehicle
registration system. To receive a permanent license, a person will need
to pay a $10 (personal check or money order) USAREUR processing

A commonly asked question officials hear at the licensing office
relates to international drivers licensing requirements and processes.
By regulation, an international license is not an acceptable
alternative to the USAREUR license if a person is here under the SOFA.
But, other nations in Europe do not recognize the USAREUR license as a
valid license for operating motor vehicles within their borders. In
these nations, motorists must carry a valid international driver’s
license. Motorists may obtain an international license on the local
economy once they receive the “hard copy” of their  USAREUR
license in the mail. Germany requires a processing fee as well. The
international license can only be used to drive in countries other than
the one where it was obtained. In other words, if a person is issued an
international license in Germany, it is not valid within Germany.  

Another rumor frequently heard is that newly arriving personnel are
authorized to drive for up to 30 days upon arrival to Germany. This is
simply not true. Rental agencies will rent vehicles to drivers if
they  have a stateside or international license.

However, if a motorist does this, he or she, is at risk for driving
illegally under the SOFA and per regulation. If servicemembers or their
dependents are caught driving under these circumstances, consequences
can range from assessment of a fine to loss of driving privileges for
180 days. Furthermore, without proper licensing, a person may be held
100 percent liable for damages if involved in an accident. Finally, a
motorist would be subject to German traffic fines and his or her
sponsor could be subject to loss of licensing privileges, as well.

To help newly arrived members of the KMC, with commander’s approval, a
30-day temporary license may be issued. To obtain this temporary
permit, individuals need to hold a valid stateside license, ID card, a
copy of orders and a letter endorsed by their unit commander granting
the member permission to obtain the temporary license (Ref USAREUR
Regulation 190-1, Chapter 2, section 2-1).  A person must bring
these items to the Ramstein Driver’s Testing Office, Bldg. 2106, Room
201. Drivers will be shown a 35-minute orientation video, assigned a
test date within the 30-day period, and then be issued a temporary

The temporary permit will give motorists the same driving privileges as
a permanent license, to include registering a vehicle. If for any
reason a person should exceed the 30-day period without obtaining a
permanent license, the temporary permit will expire and a person will
automatically lose driving privileges.

A person will then be required to immediately turn in the vehicle
license plates and register the vehicle non-operational until a valid
USAREUR license is obtained. It’s also important to note that if a
temporary permit holder takes the USAREUR exam and scores less than 85
percent within the 30-day period, the temporary permit will be rendered
invalid and driving privileges revoked until a passing score is

If servicemembers or their dependents have questions about driving in
Germany, or would like to schedule a testing appointment they should
call the Ramstein Driver’s Testing Office at 480-2394/5534.

Study the driver’s manual, as the licensing exam is a comprehensive test and can be difficult.

All Army personnel, their dependents, and Army civilians or contractors
must test at either the Daenner Kaserne, 483-7332, or Baumholder,
485-6430, testing stations.