Story Stream
recent articles


A German Declaration of Independence would read something like this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are entitled to beer, pretzels, sausages and the pursuit of ever-increasing speeds on the Autobahn." Woe unto those who would abridge these rights.

The Washington Post reported that Sigmar Gabriel, the chairman of the center-left Social Democratic Party, proposed a national speed limit of 115 kph (72 mph). That went over like a lead balloon, despite the fact that a 2007 poll showed that nearly 2/3 of Germans favor a speed limit on the Autobahn. Still, some members of Mr. Gabriel's own party immediately backed away from the suggestion.

Indeed, some Germans really like to go fast on the Autobahn. The highest speed ever clocked was 268.8 miles per hour, but that was under artificial conditions. (Basically, a raceway was set up for the purpose of setting records.) Under normal operating conditions, the fastest speed was set by a Porsche going 236 mph.

But is that safe? I've traveled on the Autobahn with my father-in-law, and he doesn't have a reputation for driving slowly. (One time, we were going at least 110 mph.) Yet, several cars passed us like we were standing still.

Actually, the Autobahn is quite safe. The Washington Post report goes on:

Germany's roads, constructed to some of the strictest safety standards in the world, rank firmly in the middle of industrialized countries in terms of traffic deaths. For every billion miles driven on German roads, nine people were killed in accidents in 2011, according to figures to be released this week by the International Transport Forum of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the United States, 10.9 people died for every billion miles driven, while in Britain, 6.3 people were killed.

If it ain't broke, why fix it?

(Image: Autobahn by Alex Berezow)