A map of the German Bundesautobahnen network
|Maintained by Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur|
|Length||12,996 km (2017) (8,075 mi)|
(BAB X or A X)
The Autobahn (IPA: [atoba:n] (listen); German plural Autobahnen) is the federal controlled-access highway system in Germany. The official German term is Bundesautobahn (plural Bundesautobahnen, abbreviated BAB), which translates as "federal motorway". The literal meaning of the word Bundesautobahn is "Federal Auto(mobile) Track".
German Autobahnen are widely known for having no federally mandated speed limit for some classes of vehicles. However, limits are posted (and enforced) in areas that are urbanised, substandard, accident-prone, or under construction. On speed-unrestricted stretches, an advisory speed limit (Richtgeschwindigkeit) of 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) applies. While driving faster is not illegal as such in the absence of a speed limit, it can cause an increased liability in the case of a collision (which the mandatory auto insurance has to cover); courts have ruled that an "ideal driver" who is exempt from absolute liability for "inevitable" tort under the law would not exceed Richtgeschwindigkeit.
A 2017 report by the Federal Road Research Institute reported that in 2015 70.4% of the autobahn network had only the advisory speed limit, 6.2% had temporary speed limits due to weather or traffic conditions, and 23.4% had permanent speed limits. Measurements from the German State of Brandenburg in 2006 showed average speeds of 142 km/h (88 mph) on a 6-lane section of autobahn in free-flowing conditions.
Only federally built controlled-access highways with certain construction standards including at least two lanes per direction are called Bundesautobahn. They have their own white-on-blue signs and numbering system. In the 1930s, when construction began on the system, the official name was Reichsautobahn. Various other controlled-access highways exist on the federal (Bundesstraße), state (Landesstraße), district, and municipal level but are not part of the Autobahn network and are officially referred to as Kraftfahrstraße (with rare exceptions, like A 995 Munich-GiesingBrunntal). These highways are considered autobahnähnlich (autobahn-like) and are sometimes colloquially called Gelbe Autobahn (yellow autobahn) because most of them are Bundesstraßen (federal highways) with yellow signs. Some controlled-access highways are classified as "Bundesautobahn" in spite of not meeting the autobahn construction standard (for example the A 62 near Pirmasens).
Similar to some other German words, the term autobahn when used in English is usually understood to refer specifically to the national highway system of Germany, whereas in German the word autobahn is applied to any controlled highway in any country. For this reason, in German the more specific term Bundesautobahn is strongly preferred when the intent is to make specific reference to Germany's Autobahn network.
Similar to high-speed motorways in other countries, autobahns have multiple lanes of traffic in each direction, separated by a central barrier with grade-separated junctions and access restricted to motor vehicles with a top speed greater than 60 km/h (37 mph). Nearly all exits are to the right; rare left-hand exits result from incomplete interchanges where the "straight-on" leads into the exit. The earliest motorways were flanked by shoulders about 60 centimetres (24 in) in width, constructed of varying materials; right-hand shoulders on many autobahns were later retrofitted to 120 centimetres (47 in) in width when it was realized cars needed the additional space to pull off the autobahn safely. In the postwar years, a thicker asphaltic concrete cross-section with full paved hard shoulders came into general use. The top design speed was approximately 160 km/h (99 mph) in flat country but lower design speeds were used in hilly or mountainous terrain. A flat-country autobahn that was constructed to meet standards during the Nazi period, could support the speed of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) on curves.
The current autobahn numbering system in use in Germany was introduced in 1974. All autobahns are named by using the capital letter A, which simply stands for "Autobahn" followed by a blank and a number (for example A 8). The main autobahns going all across Germany have a single digit number. Shorter autobahns that are of regional importance (e.g. connecting two major cities or regions within Germany) have a double digit number (e.g. A 24, connecting Berlin and Hamburg). The system is as follows:
There are also some very short autobahns built just for local traffic (e.g. ring roads or the A 555 from Cologne to Bonn) that usually have three digits for numbering. The first digit used is similar to the system above, depending on the region.
East-west routes are even-numbered, north-south routes are odd-numbered. The north-south autobahns are generally numbered from west to east; that is to say, the more easterly roads are given higher numbers. Similarly, the east-west routes are numbered from north (lower numbers) to south (higher numbers).
The idea for the construction of the autobahn was first conceived in the mid-1920s during the days of the Weimar Republic, but the construction was slow, and most projected sections did not progress much beyond the planning stage due to economic problems and a lack of political support. One project was the private initiative HaFraBa which planned a "car-only road" crossing Germany from Hamburg in the north via central Frankfurt am Main to Basel in Switzerland. Parts of the HaFraBa were completed in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but construction eventually was halted by World War II. The first public road of this kind was completed in 1932 between Cologne and Bonn and opened by Konrad Adenauer (Lord Mayor of Cologne and future Chancellor of West Germany) on 6 August 1932. Today, that road is the Bundesautobahn 555. This road was not yet called Autobahn and lacked a centre median like modern motorways, but instead was termed a Kraftfahrstraße ("motor vehicle road") with two lanes each direction without intersections, pedestrians, bicycles, or animal-powered transportation.
Just days after the 1933 Nazi takeover, Adolf Hitler enthusiastically embraced an ambitious autobahn construction project, appointing Fritz Todt, the Inspector General of German Road Construction, to lead it. By 1936, 130,000 workers were directly employed in construction, as well as an additional 270,000 in the supply chain for construction equipment, steel,concrete, signage, maintenance equipment, etc. In rural areas, new camps to house the workers were built near construction sites. The job creation program aspect was not especially important because full employment was almost reached by 1936. The autobahns were not primarily intended as major infrastructure improvement of special value to the military as often stated. Their military value was limited as all major military transports in Germany were done by train to save fuel. The propaganda ministry turned the construction of the autobahns into a major media event that attracted international attention.
The autobahns formed the first limited-access, high-speed road network in the world, with the first section from Frankfurt am Main to Darmstadt opening in 1935. This straight section was used for high-speed record attempts by the Grand Prix racing teams of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union until a fatal accident involving popular German race driver Bernd Rosemeyer in early 1938. The world record of 432 kilometres per hour (268 mph) set by Rudolf Caracciola on this stretch just prior to the accident remains one of the highest speeds ever achieved on a public motorway. A similar intent in the 1930s existed for a ten-kilometre stretch of what is today Bundesautobahn 9 just south of Dessaucalled the Dessauer Rennstreckehad bridges with no piers, meant for land speed record cars like the Mercedes-Benz T80 to have made a record attempt in January 1940, abandoned due to the outbreak of World War II in Europe four months earlier.
During World War II, the median strips of some autobahns were paved over to allow their conversion into auxiliary airstrips. Aircraft were either stashed in numerous tunnels or camouflaged in nearby woods. However, for the most part during the war, the autobahns were not militarily significant. Motor vehicles, such as trucks, could not carry goods or troops as quickly or in as much bulk and in the same numbers as trains could, and the autobahns could not be used by tanks as their weight and caterpillar tracks damaged the road surface. The general shortage of petrol in Germany during much of the war, as well as the low number of trucks and motor vehicles needed for direct support of military operations, further decreased the autobahn's significance. As a result, most military and economic freight was carried by rail. After the war, numerous sections of the autobahns were in bad shape, severely damaged by heavy Allied bombing and military demolition. Furthermore, thousands of kilometres of autobahns remained unfinished, their construction brought to a halt by 1943 due to the increasing demands of the war effort.
In West Germany (FRG), most existing autobahns were repaired soon after the war. During the 1950s, the West German government restarted the construction program. It invested in new sections and in improvements to older ones. Finishing the incomplete sections took longer, with some stretches opened to traffic by the 1980s. Some sections cut by the Iron Curtain in 1945 were only completed after German reunification in 1990. Others were never completed, as more advantageous routes were found. Some of these incomplete sections to this very day stretch across the landscape forming a unique type of modern ruin, often easily visible on satellite photographs.
The autobahns of East Germany (GDR) were neglected in comparison to those in West Germany after 1945. East German autobahns were used primarily for GDR military traffic and for state-owned farming or manufacturing vehicles. The speed limit on the GDR autobahns was 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph); however, lower speed limits were frequently encountered due to poor or quickly changing road conditions. The speed limits on the GDR autobahns were rigorously enforced by the Volkspolizei, whose patrol cars were frequently found hiding under camouflage tarpaulins waiting for speeders.
The last 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) of the remaining original Reichsautobahn, a section of A 11 northeast of Berlin near Gartz built in 1936the westernmost remainder of the never-finished Berlinkaare scheduled for replacement around 2015. Roadway condition is described as "deplorable"; the 25 metres (82 ft)-long concrete slabs, too long for proper expansion, are cracking under the weight of the traffic as well as the weather.
|On 1 January|
|Network length (Germany compared to other European nations)|
|The length of motorways and other roads is expressed in kilometers. It is reported as of 31 December.|
Germany's autobahn network has a total length of about 13,000 km (12,996 kilometres (8,075 mi) in 2017), and a density of 36 motorway kilometres per thousand square kilometer (Eurostat) which ranks it among the most dense and longest controlled-access systems in the world, and fifth in density within the EU in 2016 (Netherlands 66, Finland 3). Longer similar systems can be found in the United States (77,540 kilometres (48,180 mi)) and in China (136,500 kilometres (84,800 mi)). However both the U.S. and China have an area nearly 30 times bigger than Germany, which demonstrates the high density of Germany's highway system.
The first autobahn in Austria was the West Autobahn from Wals near Salzburg to Vienna. Building started by command of Adolf Hitler shortly after the Anschluss in 1938. It extended the Reichsautobahn 26 from Munich (the present-day A 8), however only 16.8 km (10.4 mi) including the branch-off of the planned Tauern Autobahn was opened to the public on 13 September 1941. Construction works discontinued the next year and were not resumed until 1955.
There are sections of the former German Reichsautobahn system in the former eastern territories of Germany, i.e. East Prussia, Farther Pomerania, and Silesia; these territories became parts of Poland and the Soviet Union with the implementation of the OderNeisse line after World War II. Parts of the planned autobahn from Berlin to Königsberg (the Berlinka) were completed as far as Stettin (Szczecin) on 27 September 1936. After the war, they were incorporated as the A6 autostrada of the Polish motorway network. A single-carriageway section of the Berlinka east of the former "Polish Corridor" and the Free City of Danzig opened in 1938; today it forms the Polish S22 expressway from Elblg (Elbing) to the border with the Russian Kaliningrad Oblast, where it is continued by the R516 regional road. Also on 27 September 1936, a section from Breslau (Wrocaw) to Liegnitz (Legnica) in Silesia was inaugurated, which today is part of the Polish A4 autostrada, followed by the (single vehicle) Reichsautobahn 9 from Bunzlau (Bolesawiec) to Sagan (aga) the next year, today part of the Polish A18 autostrada.
After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, plans for a motorway connecting Breslau with Vienna via Brno (Brünn) in the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" were carried out from 1939 until construction works discontinued in 1942. A section of the former Strecke 88 near Brno is today part of the D52 motorway of the Czech Republic. Also, there is the isolated and abandoned twin-carriageway Borovsko Bridge southeast of Prague, on which construction started in July 1939 and halted after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by former Czech army soldiers at the end of May 1942.
As of 2016[update], Germany's autobahn network has a total length of about 12,993 km. From 2009 Germany has embarked on a massive widening and rehabilitation project, expanding the lane count of many of its major arterial routes, such as the A 5 in the southwest and A 8 going east-west.
Most sections of Germany's autobahns have two or three, sometimes four lanes in each direction in addition to an emergency lane (hard shoulder). A few sections have only two lanes in each direction without emergency lanes, and short slip-roads and ramps.
The motorway density in Germany is 36 kilometers per thousand square kilometer in 2016, close to that of the smaller countries nearby (Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Slovenia).
About 16,000 emergency telephones are distributed at regular intervals all along the autobahn network, with triangular stickers on the armco barriers pointing the way to the nearest one. Despite the increasing use of mobile phones, there are still some 700 calls made each day on average.
For breaks during longer journeys, parking sites, rest areas, and truck stops are distributed over the complete Autobahn network. Parking on the autobahn is prohibited in the strictest terms outside these designated areas. There is a distinction between "managed" and "unmanaged" rest areas. (German: bewirtschaftet / unbewirtschaftet).
Unmanaged rest areas are basically only parking spaces, sometimes with toilets. They form a part of the German highway system; the plots of land are federal property. Autobahn exits leading to such parking areas are marked at least 200 metres (660 ft) (mostly 500 metres (1,600 ft)) in advance with a blue sign with the white letter "P". They are usually found every few kilometres, some of them bear local or historic names.
A managed rest area (German: Autobahnraststätte or Raststätte for short) usually also includes a filling station, charging station, lavatories, toilets, and baby changes. Most rest areas also have restaurants, shops, public telephones, internet access, and a playground. Some have hotels. Mandated every 50 kilometres (31 mi) or so, rest areas are usually open all night.
Both kinds of rest areas are directly on the autobahn, with their own exits, and any service roads connecting them to the rest of the road network are usually closed to general traffic. Apart from rare exceptions, the autobahn must not be left nor entered at rest areas.
Truck stops (German Autohof, plural Autohöfe) are large filling stations located at general exits, usually at a small distance from the autobahn, combined with fast food facilities and/or restaurants, but have no ramps of their own. They mostly sell fuel at normal price level while the Raststätten fuel prices are significantly higher.
Rest areas and truck stops are marked several times as motorists approach, starting several kilometres in advance, and include large signs that often include icons announcing what kinds of facilities travellers can expect, such as hotels, gas stations, rest areas, etc.
Germany's autobahns are famous for being among the few public roads in the world without blanket speed limits for cars and motorcycles. As such, they are important German cultural identifiers, "... often mentioned in hushed, reverential tones by motoring enthusiasts and looked at with a mix of awe and terror by outsiders." Some speed limits are implemented on different autobahns.
Certain limits are imposed on some classes of vehicles:
|60 km/h (37 mph)||
|80 km/h (50 mph)||
|100 km/h (62 mph)||
Additionally, speed limits are posted at most on- and off-ramps and interchanges and other danger points like sections under construction or in need of repair.
Where no general limit exists, the advisory speed limit is 130 km/h (81 mph), referred to in German as the Richtgeschwindigkeit. The advisory speed is not enforceable; however, being involved in an accident driving at higher speeds can lead to the driver being deemed at least partially responsible due to "increased operating danger" (Erhöhte Betriebsgefahr).
The Federal Road Research Institute (Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen) solicited information about speed regulations on autobahns from the sixteen States and reported the following, comparing the years 2006 and 2008:
|Autobahn total length||24,735 km||25,240 km||+505 km|
|No tempo limit (advisory limit only)||69.2%||65.5%||-580 km|
|Variable limit (with advisory maximum)||4.2%||4.1%||-5 km|
|Permanent or temporary speed limit||26.7%||30.4%||+1,090 km|
Except at construction sites, the general speed limits, where they apply, are usually between 100 km/h (62 mph) and 130 km/h (81 mph); construction sites usually have a speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph) but the limit may be as low as 60 km/h (37 mph). In rare cases, sections may have limits of 40 km/h (25 mph), or on one ramp 30 km/h (19 mph). Certain stretches have lower speed limits during wet weather. Some areas have a speed limit of 120 km/h (75 mph) in order to reduce noise pollution during overnight hours (usually 10pm 6am) or because of increased traffic during daytime (6am 8pm).
Some limits were imposed to reduce pollution and noise. Limits can also be temporarily put into place through dynamic traffic guidance systems that display the according message. More than half of the total length of the German autobahn network has no speed limit, about one third has a permanent limit, and the remaining parts have a temporary or conditional limit.
Some cars with very powerful engines can reach speeds of well over 300 km/h (190 mph). Major German car manufacturers, except Porsche, follow a gentlemen's agreement by electronically limiting the top speeds of their carswith the exception of some top of the range models or enginesto 250 km/h (155 mph). These limiters can be deactivated, so speeds up to 300 km/h (190 mph) might arise on the German autobahn, but due to other traffic, such speeds are generally not attainable except during certain times like between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. or on Sundays (when trucks drivers have to rest by law). Furthermore, there are certain autobahn sections which are known for having light traffic, making such speeds attainable during most days (especially some of those located in Eastern Germany). Most unlimited sections of the autobahn are located outside densely populated areas.
Vehicles with a top speed less than 60 km/h (37 mph) (such as quads, low-end microcars, and agricultural/construction equipment) are not allowed to use the autobahn, nor are motorcycles and scooters with low engine capacity regardless of top speed (mainly applicable to mopeds which are typically limited to 25 kilometres per hour (16 mph) or 45 kilometres per hour (28 mph) anyway). To comply with this limit, heavy-duty trucks in Germany (e.g. mobile cranes, tank transporters etc.) often have a maximum design speed of 62 km/h (39 mph) (usually denoted by a round black-on-white sign with "62" on it), along with flashing orange beacons to warn approaching cars that they are travelling slowly. There is no general minimum speed but drivers are not allowed to drive at an unnecessarily low speed as this would lead to significant traffic disturbance and an increased collision risk.
German national speed limits have a historical association with war-time restrictions and deprivations, the Nazi era, and the Soviet era in East Germany. "Free driving for free citizens" ("freie Fahrt für freie Bürger"), a slogan promoted by the German Auto Club since the 1970s, is a popular slogan among those opposing autobahn speed restrictions. Tarek Al-Wazir, head of the Green Party in Hesse, and currently the Hessian Transport Minister has stated that "the speed limit in Germany has a similar status as the right to bear arms in the American debate... At some point, a speed limit will become reality here, and soon we will not be able to remember the time before. It's like the smoking ban in restaurants."
The Weimar Republic had no federally required speed limits. The first crossroads-free road for motorized vehicles only, now A 555 between Bonn and Cologne, had a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit when it opened in 1932. In October 1939, the Nazis instituted the first national maximum speed limit, throttling speeds to 80 km/h (50 mph) in order to conserve gasoline for the war effort. After the war, the four Allied occupation zones established their own speed limits until the divided East German and West German republics were constituted in 1949; initially, the Nazi speed limits were restored in both East and West Germany.
In December 1952 the West German legislature voted to abolish all national speed limits, seeing them as Nazi relics, reverting to State-level decisions. National limits were reestablished incrementally. The 50 km/h (31 mph) urban limit was enacted in 1956, effective in 1957. The 100 km/h (62 mph) limit on rural roadsexcept autobahnsbecame effective in 1972.
Just prior to the 1973 oil crisis, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria all had no general speed restriction on autobahns. During the crisis, like other nations, Germany imposed temporary speed restrictions; for example, 100 km/h (62 mph) on autobahns effective 13 November 1973. Automakers projected a 20% plunge in sales, which they attributed in part to the lowered speed limits. The 100 km/h limit championed by Transportation Minister Lauritz Lauritzen lasted 111 days. Adjacent nations with unlimited speed autobahns, Austria and Switzerland, imposed permanent 130 km/h (81 mph) limits after the crisis.
However, after the crisis eased in 1974, the upper house of the German parliament, which was controlled by conservative parties, successfully resisted the imposition of a permanent mandatory limit supported by Chancellor Brandt. The upper house insisted on a 130 km/h (81 mph) recommended limit until a thorough study of the effects of a mandatory limit could be conducted. Accordingly, the Federal Highway Research Institute conducted a multiple-year experiment, switching between mandatory and recommended limits on two test stretches of autobahn. In the final report issued in 1977, the Institute stated the mandatory speed limit could reduce the autobahn death toll but there would be economic impacts, so a political decision had to be made due to the trade-offs involved. At that time, the Federal Government declined to impose a mandatory limit. The fatality rate trend on the German autobahn mirrored those of other nations' motorways that imposed a general speed limit.
In the mid-1980s, acid rain and sudden forest destruction renewed debate on whether or not a general speed limit should be imposed on autobahns. A car's fuel consumption increases with high speed, and fuel conservation is a key factor in reducing air pollution. Environmentalists argued that enforcing limits of 100 km/h (62 mph) limit on autobahns and 80 km/h (50 mph) on other rural roads would save lives as well as the forest, reducing the annual death toll by 30% (250 lives) on autobahns and 15% (1,000 lives) on rural roads; the German motor vehicle death toll was about 10,000 at the time. The Federal Government sponsored a large-scale experiment with a 100 km/h (62 mph) speed limit in order to measure the impact of reduced speeds on emissions and compliance. Afterward, again, the Federal Government declined to impose a mandatory limit, deciding the modest measured emission reduction would have no meaningful effect on forest loss. By 1987 all restrictions on test sections had been removed, even in Hesse where the state government was controlled by a "red-green" coalition.
Prior to German reunification in 1990, eastern German states focused on restrictive traffic regulation such as a 100 km/h (62 mph) autobahn speed limit and of 80 km/h (50 mph) on other rural roads. Within two years after the opening, availability of high-powered vehicles and a 54% increase in motorized traffic led to a doubling of annual traffic deaths, despite "interim arrangements [which] involved the continuation of the speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph) on autobahns and of 80 km/h (50 mph) outside cities". An extensive program of the four Es (enforcement, education, engineering, and emergency response) brought the number of traffic deaths back to pre-unification levels after a decade of effort while traffic regulations were conformed to western standards (e.g., 130 km/h (81 mph) freeway advisory limit, 100 km/h (62 mph) on other rural roads, and 0.05 percent BAC).
In 1993, the Social democratic-Green Party coalition controlling the State of Hesse experimented with a 90 km/h (56 mph) limit on autobahns and 80 km/h (50 mph) on other rural roads. These limits were attempts to reduce ozone pollution.
During his term of office (1998 to 2005) as Chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schröder opposed an autobahn speed limit, famously referring to Germany as an Autofahrernation (a "nation of drivers").
In October 2007, at a party congress held by the Social Democratic Party of Germany, delegates narrowly approved a proposal to introduce a blanket speed limit of 130 km/h (81 mph) on all German autobahns. While this initiative is primarily a part of the SPD's general strategic outline for the future and, according to practices, not necessarily meant to affect immediate government policy, the proposal had stirred up a debate once again; Germany's chancellor since 2005, Angela Merkel, and leading cabinet members expressed outspoken disapproval of such a measure.
In 2008, the Social Democratic-Green Party coalition controlling Germany's smallest State, the paired City-State of Bremen and Bremerhaven, imposed a 120-kilometre-per-hour (75 mph) limit on its last 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) of speed-unlimited autobahn in hopes of leading other States to do likewise.
In 2011, the first-ever Green minister-president of any German state, Winfried Kretschmann of Baden-Württemberg initially argued for a similar, state-level 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph) limit. However, Baden-Württemberg is an important location for the German motor industry, including the headquarters of Daimler AG and Porsche; the ruling coalition ultimately decided against a state-level limit on its 675 kilometres (419 mi) of speed-unlimited roadsarguing for nationwide speed limit instead.
In 2014, the conservative-liberal ruling coalition of Saxony confirmed its rejection of a general speed limit on autobahns, instead advocating dynamic traffic controls where appropriate. Between 2010 and 2014 in the State of Hesse, transportation ministers Dieter Posch and his successor Florian Rentsch, both members of the Free Democratic Party, removed or raised speed limits on several sections of autobahn following regular 5-year reviews of speed limit effectiveness; some sections just prior to the installation of Tarek Al-Wazir (Green Party) as Transportation Minister in January 2014 as part of an uneasy CDU-green coalition government. In 2015, the left-green coalition government of Thuringia declared that a general autobahn limit was a Federal matter; Thuringia would not unilaterally impose a general Statewide limit, although the Thuringian environmental minister had recommended a 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph) limit.
In late 2015, Winfried Hermann, Baden-Württemberg's Green minister of transportation, promised to impose a trial speed limit of 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph) on about 10% of the state's autobahns beginning in May 2016. However, the ruling green-social democratic coalition lost its majority in the March 2016 elections; while Mr Hermann retained his post in the new Green Christian Democratic government, he put aside preparations for a speed limit due to opposition from his new coalition partners.
In 2014, autobahns carried 31% of motorized road traffic while accounting for 11% of Germany's traffic deaths. The autobahn fatality rate of 1.6 deaths per billion travel-kilometres compared favorably with the 4.6 rate on urban streets and 6.5 rate on rural roads.
Between 1970 and 2010, overall German road fatalities decreased by almost 80% from 19,193 to 3,648; over the same time period, autobahn deaths halved from 945 to 430 deaths. Statistics for 2013 show total German traffic deaths had declined to the lowest count ever recorded: 3,340 (428 on autobahns); a representative of the Federal Statistical Office attributed the general decline to harsh winter weather that delayed the start of the motorcycle-riding season. In 2014, there was a total of 3,377 road fatalities, while autobahn deaths dropped to 375.
|Road class||Injury crashes||Fatalities||Injury rate*||Fatality rate*||Fatalities per 1000 injury crashes|
* per 1,000,000,000 travel-kilometres
In 2012, the leading cause of autobahn accidents was "excessive speed (for conditions)": 6,587 so-called "speed related" crashes claimed the lives of 179 people, which represents almost half (46.3%) of 387 autobahn fatalities that year. However, "excessive speed" does not mean that a speed limit has been exceeded, but that police determined at least one party travelled too fast for existing road or weather conditions. On autobahns 22 people died per 1,000 injury crashes; a lower rate than the 29 deaths per 1,000 injury accidents on conventional rural roads, which in turn is five times higher than the risk on urban roadsspeeds are higher on rural roads and autobahns than urban roads, increasing the severity potential of a crash.
A few countries publish the safety record of their motorways; the Federal Highway Research Institute provided IRTAD statistics for the year 2012:
|International||Killed per 1,000,000,000 veh·km|
For example, a person yearly traversing 15,000 kilometres (9,300 mi) on regular roads and 10,000 kilometres (6,200 mi) on motorways has an approximately 1 in 11,000 chance of dying in a car accident on a German road in any particular year (1 in 57,000 on an autobahn), compared to 1 in 3,800 in Czech Republic, 1 in 17,000 in Denmark, or 1 in 7,200 in the United States.
However, there are many differences between countries in their geography, economy, traffic growth, highway system size, degree of urbanization and motorization, and so on.
The Federal government does not regularly measure or estimate travel speeds. One study reported in a transportation engineering journal offered historical perspective on the increase in travel speeds over a decade, as shown below.
|(for light vehicles)||1982||1987||1992|
|Average (mean) speed||112.3 km/h (70 mph)||117.2 km/h (73 mph)||120.4 km/h (75 mph)|
|85th percentile speed||139.2 km/h (86 mph)||145.1 km/h (90 mph)||148.2 km/h (92 mph)|
|Percentage exceeding 130 km/h||25.0%||31.3%||35.9%|
Source: Kellermann, G: Geschwindigkeitsverhalten im Autobahnnetz 1992. Straße+Autobahn, Issue 5/1995.
The Federal Environmental Office reported that, on a free-flowing section in 1992, the recorded average speed was 132 km/h (82 mph) with 51% of drivers exceeding the recommended speed.
In 2006, speeds were recorded using automated detection loops in the State of Brandenburg at two points: on a six-lane section of A 9 near Niemegk with a 130 km/h (81 mph) advisory speed limit; and on a four-lane section of A 10 bypassing Berlin near Groß Kreutz with a 120 km/h (75 mph) mandatory limit. The results are shown below:
|Average speed||Autobahn cross-section|
|Speed regulation||130 km/h advisory||120 km/h mandatory|
|Vehicle class||A 9 (6 lanes)||A 10 (4 lanes)|
|Automobiles||141.8 km/h (88 mph)||116.5 km/h (72 mph)|
|Trucks||88.2 km/h (55 mph)||88.0 km/h (55 mph)|
|Buses||97.7 km/h (61 mph)||94.4 km/h (59 mph)|
|All vehicles||131.9 km/h (82 mph)||110.1 km/h (68 mph)|
At peak times on the "free-flowing" section of A 9, over 60% of road users exceeded the recommended 130 km/h (81 mph) maximum speed, more than 30% of motorists exceeded 150 km/h (93 mph), and more than 15% exceeded 170 km/h (106 mph)in other words the so-called "85th-percentile speed" was in excess of 170 km/h.
On 1 January 2005, a new system came into effect for mandatory tolls (Mautpflicht) on heavy trucks (those weighing more than 12 t) while using the German autobahn system (LKW-Maut). The German government contracted with a private company, Toll Collect GmbH, to operate the toll collection system, which has involved the use of vehicle-mounted transponders and roadway-mounted sensors installed throughout Germany. The toll is calculated depending on the toll route, as well as based on the pollution class of the vehicle, its weight and the number of axles on the vehicles. Certain vehicles, such as emergency vehicles and buses, are exempt from the toll. An average user is charged 0.15 per kilometre, or about $0.31 per mile (Toll Collect, 2007).
Driving in Germany is regulated by the Straßenverkehrs-Ordnung (road traffic regulations, abbreviated StVO). Enforcement on the federal Autobahnen is handled by each state's Highway Patrol (Autobahnpolizei), often using unmarked police cars and motorcycles and usually equipped with video cameras, thus allowing easier enforcement of laws such as tailgating. Notable laws include the following.
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Need for Speed: ProStreet, Burnout 3: Takedown, and Burnout Dominator use autobahn as one of their tracks. Euro Truck Simulator, German Truck Simulator, and Euro Truck Simulator 2 features the Autobahn in its open world map. Burnout 3: Takedown named them as Alpine while Burnout Dominator divided them into two (Autobahn and Autobahn Loop). Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed also had a track that had the player drive across different sections of the autobahn. The entire game world of Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit is set on the autobahn. On Gran Turismo 5 and Gran Turismo 6, a trophy is awarded to those who have driven the same distance as the autobahn total length. In December 2010 video game developer Synetic GmbH and Conspiracy Entertainment released the title Alarm für Cobra 11 Die Autobahnpolizei featuring real world racing and mission-based gameplay. It is taken from the popular German television series about a two-man team of Autobahnpolizei first set in Berlin then later in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Die Spekulationen über das Tempo des Porsche schießen ins Kraut und es kommt die Frage auf, ob ein Tempolimit auf der zweispurigen Strecke den Unfall hätte verhindern können. Der Porsche nach neueren Angaben ein mit einem 911er fast identischer 996 GT3 mit mehr als 350 PS soll deutlich mehr als 200 Stundenkilometer schnell gewesen sein... Bis November 2007 galt am Starnberger Dreieck ein Tempolimit von 120 km/h. Das allerdings war nur ein vierjähriger Test nachdem es schwere Unfälle gegeben hatte. Eine Verbesserung war damals nicht festgestellt worden. Über eine Wiedereinführung oder andere Maßnahmen müsste die Unfallkommission von Autobahndirektion und Polizei entscheiden. Ob der Unfall dort bei der nächsten jährlichen Sitzung Thema sein wird oder Anlass für eine so genannte Sonderverkehrsschau ist, war gestern noch unklar. Die Kommission befasst sich nur mit Unfallschwerpunkten. [Translation: Speculation about the speed of the Porsche is running wild and with it comes to the question of whether a speed limit could have prevented the accident. The Porsche... was said to be traveling significantly faster than 200 kilometers per hour. Until November 2007 a speed limit of 120 km/h was in force at the Starnberg 3-way interchange. However, that was only a four-year test initiated after some serious accidents. An improvement was not observed at that time. A reintroduction or other measures may be decided by the crash commission of the Highway Administration and the police. Whether the accident a subject at the next annual meeting of the commission or whether a so-called special meeting will be called was still unclear. The commission deals only with collision black spots.]
Im Oktober 1939 drosselten die Nazis das Tempo. In der Stadt durfte man 40, überall sonst 80 km/h fahren. Offizielle Begründung war die Verkehrssicherheit. In Wirklichkeit sollten die Deutschen mit ihrer gezügelten Fahrweise Benzin sparen, für die Wehrmacht.
1945 führten die Besatzungsmächte in den einzelnen Zonen unterschiedliche Regelungen ein. Von 1949 an galten dann die Tempolimits der Nazis wieder in ganz Deutschland, sowohl die BRD als auch die DDR übernahmen sie.
Die nächste Episode in der Geschichte des Tempolimits klingt aus heutiger Sicht unglaublich: Im Westen schaffte der Bundestag im Dezember 1952 sämtliche Höchstgeschwindigkeiten ab. Nicht die Nazi-Handschrift war das Problem am Gesetz, sondern Technikbegeisterung, verbunden mit dem allgemeinen Taumel der Wirtschaftswunderzeit.
Selbst notorisch optimistische Automanager geben zu, daß die Branche 'mit einem steifen Gegenwind' fertig werden muß. Sie rechnen für dieses Jahr mit einem Produktionsminus von etwa zwanzig Prozent. [Even notoriously optimistic auto executives admit that the industry faces 'a stiff headwind'. They expect this year a production fall of about twenty percent]
Die bisherigen Kräfteverhältnisse zwischen Befürwortern und Gegnern eines Tempolimits auf bundesdeutschen Autobahnen sind eindeutig: Eine generelle Beschränkung der Geschwindigkeit gab es in der 80-jährigen Geschichte dieser Straßen nur ein einziges Mal und sie galt lediglich 111 Tage lang. [The current balance of power between supporters and opponents of a speed limit on German motorways is clear: The only general speed limitation in the 80-year history of autobahns happened only once, and lasted only 111 days.]
From now on, the maximum speed allowed is 120 kilometers per hour (75 miles per hour). In practical terms, the change is not a big one -- it only affects 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) of autobahn connecting the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven. The rest of the tiny city-state's 49 kilometers (30.5 miles) of autobahn has long had speed restrictions aimed at fighting congestion, noise and pollution.
Die grün-rote Landesregierung plant kein generelles Tempolimit auf den Autobahnen. Vorerst, denn grundsätzlich unterstützt Verkehrsminister Winfried Hermann (Grüne) Initiativen auf Bundesebene, die eine flächendeckende Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung auf Autobahnen in Deutschland vorsehen, wie aus seiner Antwort auf eine Landtagsanfrage der FDP-Fraktion hervorgeht... Auf den 2078 Kilometer langen Autobahnen in Baden-Württemberg bestehen nach Angaben des Ministers auf 726 Kilometern Tempolimits. 65 Prozent seien frei; auf 35 Prozent sind Geschwindigkeiten bis 120 Stundenkilometer erlaubt. (The Red-Green ruling coalition plans no general speed limit on autobahns, instead supporting the proposal of Transportation Minister Winfried Hermann (Green Party) to impose a Federal limit, said the government in response to a parliamentary question by the Free Democratic Party... Of the 2,078 carriageway-kilometres of Baden-Württemberg autobahns, 726 kilometres have speed limits. 65 percent are unrestricted; 35 percent have speed limits up to 120 km/h.)
Eine Sprecherin des Statistischen Bundesamts führt aber noch einen weiteren, durchaus simpleren Grund auf: Durch die schlechte Witterung im Frühjahr 2013 sei die frühe Motorradsaison fast komplett ausgefallen, und damit habe es auch weniger Unfälle auf den Straßen gegeben. (English: "A spokeswoman for the Federal Statistical Office suggested a simple reason for the decline: bad weather in the spring of 2013 almost eliminated the initial motorcycle-riding season, so there were fewer accidents on the roads.")
(Seite 19) Mit 29 Getöteten je 1 000 Unfälle mit Personenschaden ist das Todesrisiko auf Landstraßen fünfmal höher als auf Innerortsstraßen und auch höher als auf Autobahnen, auf denen 22 Personen je 1000 Unfälle starben. Ein Grund für das wesentlich höhere Risiko auf Landstraßen und Autobahnen ist, dass hier wesentlich schneller gefahren wird als auf Innerortsstraßen und dadurch die Unfallschwere steigt.. (Seite 20) Hauptunfallursache auf Autobahnen ist die nicht angepasste Geschwindigkeit. Im Jahr 2012 waren mehr als ein Drittel aller Unfälle mit Personenschaden auf Autobahnen Unfälle, bei denen mindestens einem Beteiligten dieses Fehlverhalten zur Last gelegt wurde. Bei insgesamt 6 587 sogenannten Geschwindigkeitsunfällen kamen 179 Menschen zu Tode, das heißt nahezu die Hälfte (46,3 %) aller Getöteten auf Autobahnen... (Seite 20) Hierbei ist allerdings zu berücksichtigen, dass die Unfallursache nicht angepasste Geschwindigkeit häufig nicht bedeutet, dass die zulässige Höchstgeschwindigkeit überschritten worden ist. Nicht angepasste Geschwindigkeit wird von der Polizei bei einem Unfall auch dann als Ursache erfasst, wenn ein Beteiligter für die vorliegenden Straßen- oder Witterungsverhältnisse zu schnell gefahren ist.
den stellvertretenden Kommandanten der Feuerwehr aus Hohenschäftlarn (Kreis München), Daniel Buck... war mit seinen Kollegen einer der ersten an der Unfallstelle, an der ein Porschefahrer (51) so schnell in den Toyota einer 67-jährigen Weilheimerin bretterte, dass sich ihr Auto mehrmals überschlug. Die Frau musste noch vor Ort reanimiert werden, starb jedoch später im Krankenhaus. Die beiden Männer im Porsche kamen mit leichten Verletzungen davon... Auf Höhe des Dreiecks Starnberg verlor er auf der linken Spur die Kontrolle über sein Auto. Er kam ins Schleudern, schoss rechts über einen Grünstreifen und kam auf dem Zubringer aus Starnberg wieder auf die Fahrbahn. Dort rammte er die 67-jährige Weilheimerin in ihrem Toyota... Zeugen vor Ort schätzen, dass der Sportwagen mit rund 300 Kilometer pro Stunde unterwegs war... Ein Zeuge hatte seinen Tempomat auf 140 Stundenkilometer eingestellt und war von dem Sportwagen überholt worden. Er schätzt, der Porsche war doppelt so schnell, sagt Buck. Und: ...Schneller wie 160 Kilometer pro Stunde ist hier absolut unangemessen.. [Translation: deputy commander of the fire brigade from Hohenschaeftlarn county (Munich), Daniel Buck...was one of the first with his colleagues at the accident site where a Porsche driver (age 51) bashed into the Toyota driven by a 67-year-old Weilheim in Oberbayern resident, rolling her car over several times. The woman had to be resuscitated on site, but died later in hospital. The two men in the Porsche escaped with minor injuries... At the peak of the Starnberg interchange in the left lane he lost control of his car. He went into a skid, shot right through a grass strip to ram the 67-year-old Weilheimer resident in her Toyota... Witnesses on site estimated that the sports car was traveling about 300 kilometers per hour... One witness had his cruise control set at 140 kilometers per hour and was overtaken by the sports car. "He estimates the Porsche was twice as fast," says Buck. And: "This is simply irresponsible; even as fast as 160 kilometers per hour is absolutely inappropriate. "]
In Germany, measurement to estimate mean or average speeds on the motorways network was stopped in 1993...
Auf Autobahnabschnittten, die eine weitgehend freie Geschwindigkeitswahl zulassen, lag die mittlere Pkw-Geschwindigkeit 1992 bei 132 km/h. Mehr als die Hälfte der Pkw-Fahrer (51 %) überschreitet auf derartigen Abschnitten die Richtgeschwindigkeit.
Drivers who ride the bumper of the car in front of them can now expect a fine of up to 375 euros (nearly $470), a rise of nearly 100 euros from the previous maximum, said Sven Stadtrecher, a German police liaison officer to the U.S. military in Heidelberg. Drivers can also lose their license for up to three months. Before the new regulations went into effect, a monthlong suspension was the maximum penalty, he said. Fines will start at 35 euros for a speed of 80 kilometers an hour, Stadtrecher said, adding that drivers must keep a distance in meters that is equal to half their speed. For example, a driver going 100 km/h on the autobahn must keep a distance of at least 50 meters (165 feet). Fines and penalties will increase at higher speeds and will also take into account how long the driver tailgates.
The 34-year-old German man faces charges of manslaughter and endangering traffic as well as fleeing the scene the July 14 accident [that killed a young mother and her 2-year-old daughter]... According to the indictment, he was barreling down the highway behind the wheel of a company-owned, 476-horsepower Mercedes-Benz CL 600 coupe when he tried to overtake the woman on the far left shoulder. The 21-year-old woman lost control of her car after swerving sharply to the right to avoid the Mercedes, which prosecutors said approached at up to 250 kilometers an hour (155 mph) to within a few meters of her bumper. She spun across two lanes and smashed into a bank of trees.
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