>I had never heard of a Geisterfahrer, or “ghost driver”, until I began spending time in Germany and Austria. The radio stations have regular traffic updates, and every so often (once a week at least) there would be an alert about a ghost driver on one of the Autobahns. This means someone is driving in the opposite direction on a limited access highway, where U-turns or shifting over to the correct lane is not an option.
So how does one end up being a ghost driver? Alcohol plays a big role, but is not always present. Sometimes older drivers get confused or distracted, and drive up the exit ramp. Sometimes it’s on a dare, for a kid to impress his friends. But, sadly, often enough it’s a drunk driver who doesn’t have the faculties to realize what he’s doing. Recently a 55-year-old man drove — under the influence — for a good 12 miles before he exited the highway. He was lucky in that he only lost his license. There have been head-on collisions and deaths.
I still haven’t figured out whether this is either not a problem in America, or whether it’s simply not reported. The name was completely new to me. It can’t be because Americans are better drivers (they’re not) but there might be something about how the ramps are designed, or the signage.
But here’s a sort of silver lining for the DUI-driver who loses his license: in Austria one can buy a “license free” car, a little thing about the size of a Smart, which only goes up to 45kph (28 mph) and therefor is not allowed on Autobahns, where 45 is the minimum speed. They were originally made for older people living in rural areas. They are basically mopeds in a car body, and I think they are great. The one disadvantage, however, is that other people assume whoever is driving one is an alcoholic (the “45” is clearly displayed on the back of the car, so you know that he can’t speed up for you.)