There’s something almost mythical about the German autobahn for petrolheads who live elsewhere. It can be perceived as a very odd thing to exist in the 2020s as motoring regulations seem to increasingly be squeezing the fun out of driving, but as far as Germany’s Federal Transport Minister is concerned, there’s still no reason to slap a blanket mandatory speed limit on the network.
Speaking to Bild am Sonntag (Bild on Sunday), Volker Wissing claimed that there’s no need for a limit, apportioning a large chunk of his argument to the rise of electric vehicles. People are too concerned with trying to eke out extra range from their batteries, he reckons, while high fuel prices are also dissuading those with combustion-powered vehicles from going fast.
“The high energy prices are already causing many people to drive more slowly,” he said (translated), adding, “And with e-cars, people won’t drive as fast because they want to save their batteries”. There’s a philosophical side to his stance, too. “The pace is the personal responsibility of the citizens, as long as others are not endangered. The state should hold back here.”
Not so long ago, the autobahn as we know it now seemed under threat. There’s been talk about a blanket limit for years, and surveys have shown that most German citizens are in favour of such a thing. It seemed reasonably likely when the current coalition government was formed between the Green Party and the Free Democrats, given the latter’s manifesto pledge for an 80mph (130kmh) limit. In the end, this was dropped.
As it stands, there is a recommended 130kmh limit on sections that lack a posted limit, and when no speed is displayed on the gantries at variable sections. Although it’s technically not illegal to breach this, doing so can shift the liability between two parties in the event of an accident.
Particularly high speeds can also get you some unwanted attention - authorities were less than impressed with Radim Passer’s 2021 autobahn jaunt, which saw him hit 259mph in a Bugatti Chiron. The run was branded “irresponsible” and Passer was at one point under investigation, but in the end, he wasn’t charged.