German government rules out autobahn speed limit

Germany's federal government has rejected proposals to impose speed limits on the country's autobahn network. Leaked proposals to introduce restrictions had triggered a heated debate in the car-loving country.

Germany confirmed on Monday the country will not be introducing a speed limit on its autobahn road network anytime soon. 

"There are more intelligent control mechanisms than a general speed limit," government spokesman Steffen Seifert told reporters in Berlin.

Proposals by a government-appointed committee on the future of mobility to impose a 130 kph (80 mph) limit were recently leaked to the media. Seibert pointed out that the panel had not finished yet. Its proposals are to be finalized by the end of March.

Cars and Transportation | 28.01.2019

'Act of reason'

Proponents said reducing the speed would also reduce air pollution, help fight climate change and reduce the number of collisions.

The country's transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, said he vehemently opposes the idea, saying it "goes against all common sense."

The conservative lawmaker told Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the principal of freedom has proven itself. "Whoever wants to drive 120 can drive 120, and those who want to go faster can do that too. Why this constant micromanagement?" 

However prominent Green Party lawmaker Cem Ozdemir defended the speed limit proposal, calling it an "act of reason."

Myths and facts about Germany's highways

Oldest highway

Berlin's inner-city AVUS is widely considered to be Germany's oldest autobahn. It was built between 1913 and 1921. Back then, it was only 10 km (6.2 miles) long. And because it was so short, many call the AVUS an autobahn prototype.

Myths and facts about Germany's highways

'Vehicles-only road'

The first "proper" autobahn in Germany went into operation on August 6, 1932, connecting Cologne and Bonn. Literally translated, the highway was officially called "vehicles-only road." Today, the stretch is part of the A555 autobahn.

Myths and facts about Germany's highways

Debunking the Hitler myth

Historians make a point of emphasizing that the myth about Adolf Hitler commissioning the building of the first German autobahn is just that - a myth. The highway mentioned in the previous slide was a project initiated by the then lord mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer.

Myths and facts about Germany's highways

Highway 1 - the champion

A look at national statistics around the globe reveals that Australia boasts the longest highway. Its National Highway (also known as Highway 1) spans the whole continent, having a total length of well over 14,000 km (8,700 miles).

Myths and facts about Germany's highways

Amazing network

Germany for its part is known for one of the densest highway networks with a total length of roughly 13,000 km (8,077 miles). While this makes up only 6 percent of all long-distance roads in the country, almost a third of total road traffic depends on it.

Myths and facts about Germany's highways

Looming highway toll

German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt hopes the introduction of a passenger car toll for highways in Germany will wash around 500 million euros ($535 million) into state coffers annually. Opponents argue that's a myth, citing enormous infrastructure costs to collect the toll.

Germany is the only country in Europe with no official speed limit on highways. Some drivers hurtle along at speeds of over 200 kph. However, there are restrictions on some stretches, especially in and around cities and at roadworks.

The country could face EU penalties if it fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and poisonous nitrogen oxides. Observers consider the transport sector as a key to meeting emissions reduction targets. 

Related Subjects

Read more: EU launches probe into alleged emissions collusion by German automakers 

How to navigate the German autobahn

The sky's the limit

The only European country without a general speed limit on most parts of its highways, Germany has an excellent system of motorways. They are generally well-maintained, inviting you to explore them. The minimum age for obtaining a driver's license used with a legal guardian present in Germany is 17. An unrestricted car driver's license can be granted at age 18.

How to navigate the German autobahn

Bracing yourself

According to statistics by ADAC, Germany's national automobile association, traffic jams increased by around 15 percent in 2016 as compared to the previous year. That's a lot for a relatively small country. The increase resulted from both more cars on the highway, and more construction sites. So brace yourself for more time and stress in the car, especially around big cities.

How to navigate the German autobahn

Tailgaters

Even when you think you're soaring down the autobahn, you may get the distinct impression it's still not fast enough. Some German drivers may drive right up behind you and try to "push" you over. They may even flash their headlights to rattle your nerves. You aren't supposed to block the "fast" lane — the aim being to only use it for passing. But don't let pushy drivers bully you!

How to navigate the German autobahn

Smile for the camera!

Watch out for speed cameras! They are used widely in Germany, from the autobahn to inner city areas. These box-shaped devices are installed next to the road, and will often catch you unawares. Should you be driving over the speed limit, a ticket will be sent to your house, complete with a picture of you at the wheel and the license plate confirming your offense.

How to navigate the German autobahn

Cell phones a no-no

Holding a cell phone in your hand while driving is an absolute no-no. If caught, you could be fined 100 euros ($124) and get a one-point penalty against your driver's license. Penalties spike up if you cause an accident, and you may have your license revoked. Fines were raised in 2017. Investing in a hands-free car kit is smarter. Penalties also apply to bicyclists using their cell phones.

How to navigate the German autobahn

Make way for help

The same thing goes for not making way for emergency vehicles. Once traffic jams up, you are required to create a lane for ambulances and police, even before you see the flashing lights behind you. If not, you could be fined at least 200 euros (around $250) and get points on your license. The emergency lane is always between the far left and the rest of the lanes.

How to navigate the German autobahn

Be on the alert

You are also required to set up a warning signal should you break down or have an accident. This means placing an orange metal triangle on the road, donning a fluorescent jacket, both of which you must have in your car. You must also have a first-aid kit stored in your vehicle.

How to navigate the German autobahn

Driving under the influence

In Germany, there's zero tolerance for beginners, as well as for professional drivers. There's a 0.05 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to driving under the influence. Bicyclists may not exceed 0.16 percent. Penalties start at a €500 ($623) fine, points off your license and even a one-month license suspension. Best bet: don't drink and drive!

How to navigate the German autobahn

Snow tires

Snow tires are required once streets become slick with slush, ice or snow. In Germany, the rule of thumb is that this can occur anytime between October and Easter. Should you not have snow tires installed on your car and still drive on slippery streets, you could be fined and have points taken off your license. Without proper snow tires, your insurance may also not cover an accident.

How to navigate the German autobahn

A relaxed approach

To navigate both the German autobahn and city streets, the best approach is a zen one: take your time and don't let yourself get frazzled. Besides, with an expansive train and public transportation system in the country, you might not even want to hop into your car, but board a train and put up your feet!

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