Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

German autobahn speed limit proposals sparks debate

Germany is the only European country to have no speed limits on some of its highways

A senior German police officer said allowing people to drive at up to 250kph on autobahns was ‘crazy’. EPA
A senior German police officer said allowing people to drive at up to 250kph on autobahns was ‘crazy’. EPA

The German government is facing a backlash over proposals to introduce speed limits on the autobahn, the country’s high-speed motorway system.

MPs for the first time put forward the idea of setting limits on how fast drivers can go on autobahns.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer is a staunch opponent of speed limits on the autobahns, calling it a “masochistic debate” that “threatened the personal freedom of drivers”.

“Whoever wants to drive at 120 (kilometres per hour) can drive at 120. Whoever wants to drive faster is allowed to do that too,” he told Bild newspaper.

Michael Mertens, however, deputy leader of the German Police Officers’ Union, backed proposals for speed limits.

“In this country, some people legally drive [at] 200 or 250kph. To be clear, that is crazy,” he told Suddeutsche Zeitung. “Studies show one in four road deaths could be prevented with a speed limit.”

Green Party MP Cem Ozdemir also backed the proposals, calling them an “act of reason”.

The government is looking for ways to curb carbon emissions by cutting air pollution.

Germany is the only European country not to impose speed limits on its main roads and motorways.

Polls suggest the German public approves of measures to tackle climate change by imposing speed limits on vehicles using the autobahn.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents agreed that speeds of between 120 and 140kph would be appropriate to help tackle climate change, according to an Emnid Institut survey.

Unrestricted driving speeds have, by and large, been a part of German norms – reflected in the phrase “Freie Fahrt fur freie Burger” (unrestricted driving for free citizens) – over the past 40 years.

Germany’s powerful car industry supports having no restrictions, although most manufacturers build a maximum speed limit of 250kph into their vehicles.

Proposals to help curb emissions also include a fuel tax increase, an end to tax breaks for diesel cars, and electric and hybrid vehicle quotas.

The committee behind the autobahn proposals is expected to publish a full report on the future of mobility in March.

Updated: January 28, 2019 05:53 PM