Germany is the only major country without a speed limit on most of its highways. The rural areas on the Isle of Man, and the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra also lack speed limits, but the German roads are the prime example of unrestricted driving. This is due to the country’s automotive culture, and it’s also being reflected in the German politics.
Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called Germany an Autofahrernation (“a nation of drivers”) to point out the fact that a speed limit would not be generally accepted by the public. In May 2008 the majority of the political parties rejected a proposal to introduce of a general speed limit of 130km/h. To put it simply, the current Chancellor Merkel said “it will not happen under me”.
In addition to the support of most politicians, there is also the important and powerful lobby of VDA (an interest group of the German automobile industry), AVD (Germany’s oldest automobile club), ADAC (Germany’s and Europe’s largest automobile club). And off course there are the manufacturers Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen, which are all against imposing a speed limit. They and many Germans even use the phrase Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger, which could be translated like ‘free speed for free people’.
We have seen many videos of great cars showing their abilities on the Autobahn, but sadly we have also seen a some accidents featured in the news. Nevertheless the overall safety record of German Autobahns is generally better than most other European highways. So, safety could be an issue but there is not a direct correlation between the safety record and the lack of a speed limits.
Check out this video of a tuned BMW 135i with more than 400 horsepower chasing a Porsche 997 Turbo on the Autobahn near the famous Nürburgring. This surely fits BMW’s ‘Joy of Driving’ campaign. But is this what Schröder had in mind when he said Germany is a nation of drivers?
What do you think about speed limits on highways? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments below.