Speeding on Germany's motorways under fire
14 November 2007, Hamburg - An emotional public debate is currently raging in Germany on whether to do away with a "national icon" - driving as fast as you can on the country's autobahn or motorways.
14 November 2007
Hamburg - An emotional public debate is currently raging in Germany on whether to do away with a "national icon" - driving as fast as you can on the country's autobahn or motorways.
Germany's car industry, having built its reputation on high- powered BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes that cruise effortlessly at speeds of over 200 km/h, is vehemently opposed to speed limits.
Germany is the only country in the world with no blanket speed limit on motorways, with only a "recommended speed" of 130 km/h.
But a growing number of Germans are now questioning this "freedom", arguing that it makes no sense calling for measures to curb global warming in other countries while at home motorists can effortlessly continue spewing large amounts of C02 into the atmosphere at the speeds they are allowed to travel.
This prompted one of the two big parties in the ruling coalition government, the Social Democrats (SPD), to call for a speed limit of 130 km/h at its recent party congress in Hamburg.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is campaigning internationally for measures to curb global warming, reacted promptly, saying she was opposed to a speed limit because it did not make much of a difference to emission figures and would harm the export-orientated car industry.
"We should rather look at ways to avoid traffic jams where a lot more pollutants are put into the atmosphere," she said in a television interview.
The sports car maker Porsche issued a statement saying that a speed limit would harm the car industry. "Cars made in Germany are so sought after worldwide because of testing on the autobahn and because they are made in principle to go fast".
But it is a myth that most of the testing is done on the autobahn. Germany's motorways are so clogged with traffic that travelling at high speeds is the exception. Two-thirds of the motorways have speed limits because of road constructions or other obstacles.
This is one of the reasons why sports car makers such as Porsche do most of their testing on company testing grounds or on the famous Nuerburgring race track in the Eiffel mountains.
Germany's big motoring organisations such as the ADAC and ACE supported the chancellor in calling for more research on technical systems to improve traffic flow and prevent stop-and-go travel.
"Cars contribute only 12 per cent of all C02 emissions in Germany", the ADAC said in a press statement. "Already 80 per cent of travel is under the recommended speed of 130. A speed limit would only reduce C02 emissions by half a per cent".
But the head of Germany's Federal Environmental Office, Andreas Troge, says a speed limit of 120 km/h on motorways "costs nothing and would immediately reduce C02 emissions by 2.5 million tonnes per year".
But the proponents of a speed limit in Germany also point to a recent British study conducted by Jillian Anable from the University of Aberdeen in Schottland
A strict 100 km/h speed limit on British motorways would save five per cent of total C02 emissions in the traffic sector, Anable concluded in her study. The current motorway speed limit in Britain is 120 km/h.
"It is remarkable that there is no recent data on average speeds in Germany," Anable says. "I would find that very interesting. Presumably it is much higher than in Britain and more savings can be made on C02 emissions with a speed limit".
Subject: German news