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Cars and Transportation

Autobahn speed limit 'could save lives'

Lewis Sanders IV
January 25, 2019

Proposals to impose speed limits on Germany's highways have divided the country. But the German police union believes it's time to hit the brakes because the situation "is crazy."

Workers erect a 130 km/h sign
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Seeger

The deputy leader of the German Police Officers' Union, Michael Mertens, on Friday backed proposals to impose a general speed limit on Germany's famed Autobahn in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.

Recent proposals by a government commission on the future of mobility to impose restrictions triggered a heated debate across the country. 

What Mertens said:

  • "We are the only country in Europe that has no general speed limit on highways"
  • "In this country, some people legally drive 200 or 250 km/h (155 mph). To be clear, that is crazy"
  • "Studies show one in four road deaths could be prevented with a speed limit."
  • "Reducing the speed to 130 km/h would prevent long tailbacks and serious traffic accidents."

Read more: Will Germany use autobahn speed limits to cut carbon emissions?

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A German staple

A proposal on restrictions was formulated by a government commission looking at ways to combat climate change. It suggested that by imposing a speed limit, Germany could significantly reduce air pollution. 

However, for many in and outside Germany, the speed limit-free highways are a German staple. Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer said this week that the idea of a speed limit "defies all common sense."

However, others have defended the proposal. Green Party lawmaker Cem Özdemir this week defended a speed limit, saying it represented an "act of reason."

Read more: Autobahn deaths prompt calls to punish rubberneckers

Autobahn of the future, CO2 free

What is the current situation in Germany and Europe?

Germany is the only country in Europe with no official speed limit on highways. However, there are restrictions on some stretches, especially in and around cities and at roadworks. Germany's neighbors Austria, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and the Czech Republic all impose a 130 km/h limit. In Belgium and Switzerland, it sinks to 120 km/h.

Read more: Germans shocked by Autobahn privatization plan

What happens next?

The commission examining the proposal is expected to publish the report by the end of March.

Read more: Europe's patchy approach to road tolls

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