Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Autobahn: Where "Speed Kills" Dies

The German autobahn is a traffic safety paradox. Countries like Australia, the US and the UK have made freeway speed control a major objective of their traffic safety code. Many high class roads in the US are limited to 55 mph and sometimes lower speeds. The top BBC television program Top Gear has scored big laughs with US speed limits.

Speed kills they say.  That can be true. In a case of loss of control or other accident conditions, a modest impact accident can become a severe or fatal accident if the speeds are high.  But speed itself does not kill. In a recent (June 2016) presentation at the German federal department of transportation that I witnessed in Berlin, the statistics clearly showed that the Autobahn is the safest German road.  Germany in general has better traffic safety that the US.  But the speeds on the Autobahn are insane.

Recently I drove about 1,000 km on several German autobahns connecting Berlin and Frankfurt.  When the road was not wet, I was typically using the middle lane and cruised at 150-160 km/hr for long stretches where no limits were in effect. That's 93-100 mph in a loaded car with a family of four!

But on occasion like the one below I'd move up to 176 km/hr or 109 mph and get passed quickly by a Hyundai SUV as in the instance below. The speeding of Hollywood car chases is common place with common cars on the German autobahn.

Note in the picture that the dashboard indicates to me the speed limit in the sign with the red circle and three dashes.  The dashes mean that no speed limit is in effect on that segment of the road. The dashes are replaced with applicable limits, most commonly 120 or 90 km/hr in sections with curves or other difficulties.  The Germans were very cognizant of these limits and adhered to them. On occasion I'd drive a little faster on those restricted stretches to pass the Porsches so I can enjoy the whoosh of being passed by them minutes later... Even when did 194 km/hr (120 mph) they zipped by me at , I'd guess, 155 mph which is a common governed speed limit (based on the tire type fitted).

And nobody died; not even close.  It was fun to see that the next city was 50 miles away and arrive there in about half an hour!