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Tanja Vejvoda / nmSeptember 2, 2015

You'd better hope you don't see racing elephants up ahead! But if you do, learn this German word.

Two elephants on a road,Copyright: JohanSwanepoel
Image: JohanSwanepoel - Fotolia.com

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You might be surprised to hear that "elephant racing" (Elefantenrennen) takes place just about every day on Germany's autobahns. But this spectacle is not nearly as impressive or exciting as it sounds. In Germany, Elefantenrennen is anything but popular. It doesn't involve circus tricks or safaris, and there are no elephants lumbering through the African savanna.

That's because the Elefanten, in this case, are trucks. Elefantenrennen describes the often frustrating moment when one truck tries to overtake another truck on a highway or main road, blocking all the lanes in the process. This can take a long time if there's only a slight difference in speed.

Elefantenrennen is particularly annoying if there's a lot of traffic on the roads. Vehicles traveling at higher speeds can't get ahead, and traffic jams ensue. Elefantenrennen, or specifically overtaking "at low differential speed," is actually prohibited in Germany, and can garner the "elephant driver" a ticket.