Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Getting My USAREUR Driver’s License


My license, minus a lot of the details.

When we first got to Germany, I studied the booklet my husband was given to prepare for the test to get a USAREUR (US Army Europe) driver’s license. Then we found out we couldn’t take the test at the same time because we are married, which was odd considering there are dividers up at the test desks and everyone is given a different version of the test (and I’ve since talked to people who took theirs at the same time as their spouse). In any case, I let him take it first since he needed it more. Because we only had one car, I rarely needed to go anywhere my husband wasn’t also going or I couldn’t get a ride, and the job I got was within walking distance of home, I didn’t push trying to take my test for awhile, especially since I thought I would have to take off work to do it.

Then I found out that I could get administrative leave (paid time off) to get my license. I knew we’d be moving in a few months and I might not get so lucky with my next job location, and there was at least one time in the future when I would be stranded if I didn’t get it (and I’d already been stranded before), so I decided to go ahead and take the test in January of this year. I tried calling several times and didn’t get through so I asked my husband to try. He managed to get someone and found out I could take the test the following Wednesday at 12:30. I thought he’d made the appointment, but apparently he had just made an inquiry, so I kept calling.

Restaurant's "Sorry we're Closed" signI never got through. Finally I went over the day before the test to see if I could register in person and there was a note on the door that the office was closed for the day due to a medical emergency of some kind and would be open the next day. So I decided to just try to call the next day and if they didn’t answer (which they didn’t) I’d just try to sign up on the spot. To study, I used an online study guide. I took part of a test online and re-read through the practice test from the booklet. I only missed a few, so I figured I would probably do fine.

I showed up the day of the test to find out the guy was out for lunch until exactly the time the test would start. Finally, he came out to direct everyone to the classroom. I told him I didn’t have an appointment, and he said it was okay as he was sure he had some room (there were only a handful of people there besides me). First we filled out the application according to his instructions. If you’re a family member, have your sponsor’s social, DSN, and unit ready. I can’t contact my husband at a DSN and they wouldn’t take a cell phone. Fortunately when I told the teacher my husband’s unit, he was able to rattle off the DSN by memory. After that, we got started with the class.

I had been told there would be a long class before the test. It turned out there wasn’t. He said that due to staffing cuts he was just going to show us a 40 minute video they’ve been using for the last 20 some years and then go over a few signs and right of way rules. The video started with a German soldier and some techno in the background and he introduced the different modules. I’m glad this soldier was not the narrator for each module as he was kind of hard to understand. The video was pretty straight forward.

German road signs for a fish tank. The one on the left prohibits stopping or standing on the roadway, and the one on the right is a sign indicating you have the right of way at the next intersection only (rather than all intersections on the road)

Afterward we went over some signs, and he specifically told us some that would be on the test, which I’m glad he did as I’m not sure I would have remembered some of them without that. I also kind of like some of his ways of remembering signs such as No Stopping (circle with the X) and Restricted Stopping (circle with one diagonal line). For No Stopping he said “You are my X. No stopping. I don’t want to see you.” For Restricted Stopping he said “We’re separated. You can stop for 3 minutes to pick up the kids, then get on your way.” We also went over right of way with lots of pictures, and he made it much easier to understand than when I tried to learn it myself.

Then he went through some other laws like DUI and seat belt laws. One thing I didn’t know before was that you shouldn’t drink alcohol for up to 6 hours after an accident because if the police come to get you to take another test you will get a DUI, and they’ll say that you’d drank right before the accident and it hadn’t hit your system. He suggests a glass of warm milk instead. He also told us to cooperate with authorities and told us about a guy a couple years ago who was 3 days from his ETS date, got pulled over from a DUI, told the Polizei that if they wanted his blood sample they could take it by force, and called them Nazis (which is apparently a federal offense in Germany). They beat him, and instead of going home, he was turned over to Germany and put in their federal prison and still sits there today.

All that did end up taking longer than he originally planned and it we didn’t start the test until about quarter after 2, but he said he would rather take the time and know we’re not confused and that we’re out there driving safe than rush through it. It took me about 45 minutes to finish the test. I counted up about 9 I wasn’t sure of, and I knew I could miss 15 and pass. I had to wait a little bit for him to come back in the room to grade the test, and I ended up getting an 89.

Afterward, there was an eye exam on the wall where he had me read a line with each eye covered and if I recall correctly he checked my Stateside license. Then he had me sign a temporary, paper license and pay $10 (which I was able to do via credit/debit). He said that in 2-3 weeks the regular license (pictured at the beginning) would come to our APO box, and after that I would be able to get an international license. I didn’t get my international license until about half a year later while we were in the process of moving to Kaiserslautern, so I will tell you about that when I catch up to it.

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