Despite a majority in favor of introducing a general speed limit on highways, there are some statements against it that you hear time and again. A closer look reveals whether they’re accurate, and if so, what there is to them.
Argument 1: Driving means freedom
"I will not allow any infringement of my personal freedom!" This is one of the most frequent statements made by people opposed to speed limits. In principle, however, German road traffic is one of the most heavily regulated areas of life. Every detail is defined by the legislator. There are regulations on parking, on the distance between vehicles when driving and on right of way. Practically the only thing that doesn’t exist is a general speed limit on highways. That's why people seem to cling to this little freedom, which is basically non-existent.
Argument 2: Only a few people drive faster than 130 km/h.
On the face of it, this statement is correct. The German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) analyzed the effects of a speed limit of 120 km/h on Autobahns between 2010 and 2014. That study showed that 60 percent of all motorists drive a maximum of 130 km/h. Another 15 percent hit their cruising speed at 130 to 140 km/h. A quarter of the road users drive faster than 140 km/h. The study comes to the conclusion that if the average speed were reduced, a speed limit of 120 km/h would make more sense because only seven percent of road users would then be driving faster than 140 km/h.
Argument 3: At a constant speed of 130 km/h, drivers’ concentration decreases.
With regard to this argument, it’s true that more concentration is needed at high speeds. This usually leads to improved concentration in the short term in order to be able to adequately cope with the immediate demands. The problem is that this high level of concentration cannot be maintained in the long term. This situation is aggravated by the fact that during rather monotonous highway trips, drivers are mainly occupied with monitoring tasks. These are generally difficult for people, especially over a longer period of time. The alertness of a driver then diminishes. This problem increases accordingly at higher speeds.
Argument 4: German Autobahns are the safest roads in the country.
In general, the number of fatal accidents has fallen dramatically over the decades. This has happened as traffic volume has increased. In 1970, 21,332 people died on German roads, but in 2019, that number was only 3,059, according to the German Federal Statistical Office. Country roads are still the leading sites for road users to have an accident. Here 1,867 people died in 2018.