Limitation brings success

What is the point of a speed limit from the point of view of traffic researchers?

I assume that the only ones who go crazy on the German autobahn are the tourists because they are not allowed to race anywhere else.

The fact that there is basically no speed limit on German autobahns, only a recommended speed of 130 kilometers per hour, that is known around the world, so to speak. However, it has been discussed for years whether we might not need a speed limit after all. Environmental reasons are cited by the supporters of such a measure, and it is argued that the number of accidents may decrease.

What do experts say about the speed limit?

But what would a speed limit really do in practice? A couple of things can be said about this: First of all, Germany's motorists are not really as fast on the autobahn as one might assume. This is confirmed by a study by the Federal Highway Research Institute.

So Christian Bale's feeling is correct. The experts looked at the data that around 100 measuring points had collected between 2010 and 2014. It turned out that only every third driver drives, when the speed is released, even faster than the recommended speed of 130 kilometers per hour.

Drivers drive too fast

That means: only this third would be affected by a limit at all. And only ten percent are faster than 150 kilometers an hour. If you now say that the numbers are a few years old - ok, then the proportion may be a bit higher at the moment. But still only a part of all motor vehicle drivers would be affected.

But this part has a tendency towards lead foot. This is also suggested by a representative survey conducted by the Autoscout24 portal this month. The highest speed ever driven was asked. And the average value for the answers was a sporty 194 kilometers per hour. And 15 percent of those surveyed said they had driven faster than 150 miles an hour at least once in their life. It was interesting that there was a stark inequality between the sexes: Of the men, 24 percent said that they had already been behind the wheel at this speed, compared to only six percent of the women.

More than half of all motorway kilometers without limit

But even the toughest speed freak has to find a section of the motorway with no speed limit to let off steam. And there is less of it than you might think. Almost a third of the motorways in Germany already have speed limits. If you then include the construction sites in pieces without any limitation in the calculation, in January 2019 that was 1667 kilometers, it becomes clear that interested parties can only drive as fast as they want on 57.2 percent of all motorway routes. So in principle. Because then the traffic density must first allow it. When the freeway is full, it's just full.

Getting an overview of speed limits on the highways of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia is not that easy. At least hints can be found, for example, in the response of the federal government to a request from FDP members of the Bundestag last year. According to this, at that time there were 43 speed limits on motorways in Saxony, 27 in Saxony-Anhalt and 75 in Thuringia.

Distribution of speed limits in Central Germany

In Saxony-Anhalt, 126 kilometers of autobahns - meaning one-way lanes - were affected by permanent and temporary speed limits. In Thuringia it was 277 kilometers. The federal government did not have any data for Saxony.

But what would a general speed limit bring? Possibly, for example, more safety on the road. For this reason, for example, the German Road Safety Council (DVR) now supports the demand for a limit of 130 kilometers per hour. The whole thing is a cost-effective and quickly implementable option to further increase road safety. On the motorway sections without a speed limit, this would result in shorter stopping distances and thus fewer serious accidents.

Speed ​​limits save lives

The German Insurance Association (GDV) also says: A binding speed limit on German motorways would save lives. "In 2017, an estimated 80 people died on motorway sections without a speed limit because they were traveling at an inappropriate speed," said Siegfried Brockmann, Head of Accident Research at GDV. The insurers are therefore proposing a large-scale trial of the effectiveness of a speed limit. One option, for example, is to impose a restriction only for the time between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

I think regulated speed limits are justified when the traffic gets denser - through variable displays. This already exists on many routes.

The argument of some accident researchers against a speed limit goes like this: If you are no longer allowed to drive as fast, if there is less overtaking, if there are fewer lane changes, the drivers are also bored faster - and that costs reaction time at the crucial moment. In addition, the risk of fatigue at the wheel increases significantly. And that in turn could lead to further accidents.

Highways are safe

In general, it has to be said that motorways are the safest type of road in Germany. If you convert the number of victims to the number of kilometers driven, it becomes clear that there are 4.8 deaths per billion kilometers driven in urban areas, and 6.6 on country roads. On the highway, on the other hand, the value is only 1.75.

The experts at the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in Dessau are clear in favor of a speed limit. You argue with the positive ecological effect. The UBA employees have calculated that a limit of 130 kilometers per hour can save 1.9 million tons of the greenhouse gas CO2 every year. And that immediately and without additional costs, as the UBA argues. To put it into perspective: The total emissions from cars and light commercial vehicles in Germany are around 39.1 million tons of CO2.

Majority of Germans in favor of a speed limit

And what do people say about the speed limit? According to a representative survey by the opinion research institute Civey, a large majority of Germans are in favor. Specifically, only around 32 percent of the respondents were fundamentally against it, more than two thirds of the respondents would generally welcome a restriction, and it was probably these people who Christian Bale experienced on the autobahn.