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Germany cracks down nationwide on highway speeding

People driving too fast on Germany's motorways on Thursday are more likely than usual to be caught, as police carry out the first-ever nationwide anti-speeding campaign. The operation has drawn some criticism.

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Bad day for a race on the autobahn

Some 14,700 police officers will be watching out for speeding cars at more than 8,700 locations throughout the country during the so-called "Blitz-Marathon" - a term referring to the flashing light triggered by cars driving too fast past a speed camera.

The idea of a 24-hour operation was initiated in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The decision to carry out a nationwide crackdown was made in May at a conference of Germany's interior ministers.

North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, has seen a larger-than-average fall in the number of people killed or injured on its roads since last year, when it implemented the speeding crackdown.

'No. 1 Killer'

In a statement released on Thursday, NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger warned of the consequences of speeding.

"Driving too fast is the No.1 killer everywhere. Every third fatality on the roads is the victim of speeding. That is what we are mobilizing against today," he said.

Germany's largest automobile club, the ADAC, has come out in support of the campaign, but warned that police should reprimand speeders immediately to optimize the learning effect.

Another association, "Mobil in Deutschland," was more critical, claiming the operation was aimed solely at generating revenue for the public purse.

Attempts by environmental and left-leaning parties to introduce a universal speed limit of 130 kmh (80.7 mph) on the autobahn in Germany for both safety and environmental reasons have so far failed. Such bids are always vigorously opposed by the ADAC and the automobile industry, which is seen as vital to the country's economy.

However, large portions of the German autobahn are nonetheless subject to restrictions, and 130 kmh is suggested as a guideline maximum speed.

Despite lacking a universal speed limit on its motorways, Germany has a relatively low death toll in comparison with other countries, with 3.1 deaths per billion kilometers. In Austria, the rate is 4.8 and in the USA 5.0. Both these countries have general speed limits, and their higher rate of road deaths is often used in Germany as an argument against implementing limits on its roads.

According to Germany's Federal Statistical Office, Destatis, there were 3,606 deaths on German roads in 2012, down 10.1 percent on the previous year. Sixty percent of the deaths occurred not on the autobahn, but on ordinary roads, where general speed limits apply.

tj/hc (dpa, AFP)

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