Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Austria, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Road conditions in Austria are generally excellent. During the winter, however, roads in alpine areas may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may be closed for extended periods and tire chains are often required. Be extra careful during the heavily traveled vacation periods (i.e., December-February, Easter, and July-August). Be alert when you drive through autobahn construction zones, particularly on the A-1 East/West Autobahn. Reduced lanes and two-way traffic in these zones have resulted in several deadly accidents in recent years. Traffic information and road conditions are broadcast on the English-language channel, fm4, located between 91 and 105 FM depending on the locale.
A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. You must also get an international driver’s permit (obtainable in the U.S. from the American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver’s license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (OEAMTC or ARBOE). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.
Austria requires all vehicles using the autobahn to display an “Autobahn Vignette” highway-tax sticker on the inside of the vehicle’s windshield. The sticker may be purchased at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, and small “Tabak” shops located in Austrian towns. The fine for failing to display a valid autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car is EUR 120 (approx. $ 150 08/2013 exchange rate) if paid in cash and “on the spot”. For more information, please see http://www.asfinag.at/maut/vignette
Austrian autobahns have a maximum speed limit of 130 km/hr, although drivers often drive much faster and pass aggressively. The use of hand-held cell phones while driving is prohibited. Turning right on red is also prohibited throughout Austria. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Austria is .05 percent and penalties for driving under the influence tend to be stricter than in many U.S. states.
It is mandatory for cars on Austrian motorways and highways to leave an emergency corridor, even when no emergency vehicle is approaching. When traffic stops, create an emergency corridor in between the far-left lane and all others to the right; vehicles should also be using the shoulder. For more information, please click here. Failure to comply carries a fine of EUR 2,180 (approx.$ 2,700)
Between November 1 and April 15, the use of winter tires is mandated by law. All-season tires comply if they carry the “M S” mark and have at least 4 mm of tread. In addition, local police may require snow chains in heavy snow. Failure to comply with the law results in a substantial fine and the suspension of the cited vehicle's use. Insurance is deemed void if a vehicle that is involved in an accident between November 1 and April 15 is not fitted with winter tires.
Tourists driving rented vehicles must ensure that the vehicle is equipped with the proper tires and pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contract. Many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into eastern European countries. Drivers attempting to enter countries listed as “prohibited” on the car rental contract may be arrested, fined, and/or charged with attempted auto theft. Austrian police are authorized to hold the rented vehicle for the car rental company.
Emergency roadside help and information may be reached by dialing 123 or 120 for vehicle assistance and towing services (Austrian automobile clubs), 122 for the fire department, 133 for police, and 144 for an ambulance. The European emergency line is 112.
Austrian Federal Railroads (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) offer excellent railroad service to all major towns of the country and also direct connections with all major cities in Europe. Trains are well maintained and fares are reasonable. There is also an extensive network of bus lines operated by the Austrian Postal Service (Österreichische Post). All major cities also offer excellent public transportation services.
You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, and health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.