Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stau Season

Summer in Germany....brings on the subject of traffic jams.  German "staus" are legendary.  An American typically cannot imagine being stuck in a ninety-minute traffic jam....moving eight lousy miles (11 km) at best.

Why all the traffic on a weekend?  Well....Germans want to travel and go places.  To be honest, the current autobahn structure is made for ten months out of the year....not June or July.  Even the concept of limiting truckers to six days a week, and forcing them off the road for Sundays.....probably hasn't helped that much.

Toss in the fact that if you are going to a week long house rental deal.....then they all occur on Saturdays to arrive to.  This means you leave on Saturday morning and arrive at the house rental by that afternoon, and the reverse is true....the guy at the house rental right now....checks out by Saturday morning, and drives home on Saturday.

So I'm going to offer up simple advice on how an American can handle the stressful stau-business.

First, getting a head start is practical.  I hate suggesting to get up at 3AM to start a trip but it helps.  There is hardly anyone on the road until around 7AM, and traffic never builds up until 9AM.  So you might just plan this in a way.....get six hours of driving out of the way, and rest for three hours around while the heavy traffic is running.

Second, the best places to stop along the autobahn in these typically your gas station and restaurant operations along the autobahn.  I know the prices are outrageous and the food is typically two-star at best.  But your only other option is to completely off the autobahn and plan some stop in a local town or city.  Maybe there's a tourist spot to stop and see for three hours....and this makes sense then.

Third, I've noticed folks now get into GPS calculating.  This leans toward you running into a lengthy autobahn stau, leaving the autobahn to travel on some secondary road at a lesser speed, and somehow coming out ahead in this driving game.  I've tried this on five or six occasions.  Frankly, it works if the stau is 20km long, but if's less than'd best just stay on the autobahn.

Fourth, most staus start because of a car accident.  Guys are stupid....driving 150kph and create a massive accident.  You don't want to be a trigger to a stau, so I would strongly advise on getting a good ten-minute rest every two hours.  It'd help to switch out drivers every two hours.  It'd help to get everyone out of the car and make them walk a bit every two hours.

Fifth, once a driver gets really stressed out and acting weird from a lengthy stau....make the driver leave the autobahn and rest.

Sixth, staus typically come to a closure by late Saturday afternoon.  You would rarely find one after 6PM.  If you asked when the peak usually occurs....I'd say between 10AM and 2PM.

Seventh.....I'd like to say that staus occur more often near metropolitan cities, but that just isn't the case. You can't predict where a massive accident will occur and trigger a stau.

Eighth.....the stand-still stau.  Over the fifteen years I lived in Germany....I came up against a absolute stau on three occasions.  This is where nothing moves for at least thirty minutes.  Typically....the cops are at the accident scene, with an ambulance crew, and digging folks out of a bus or several cars.  If you figure you are such a situation, and the next exit is a km up the road.....see if you can wiggle yourself out to the right far lane and just exit the autobahn completely.

Ninth....the fog stau.  I once drove from Munich back up toward early January.  I ran into a fog bank where visibility was 200 feet at best.  Traffic started to back up and we invented a massive stau.....but the positive was that we still continued to move along....just slowly.  In a case like this....I'd strong advise you to find a rest-stop and just pull in for an hour....waiting for the fog to lift.

Tenth and final.....all staus eventually end, and traffic goes back into turbo, to make up for lost time.  Sadly, this simply creates the next potential accident down the road.  Don't go nuts to make up for lost time.

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