Letter: Truths About Autobahn Driving

To qualify for a driver’s license, a driver must be at least 17 and have completed 25 to 45 hours of professional instruction and 12 hours of theory, with a certain amount of practice driving on the autobahn. The cost of a license is $2,000. This is after paying for the professional instruction and passing the related tests.

Speed limits are strictly enforced on 4,500 miles of the 7,500-mile autobahn highway system. Speed limits of 50 to 80 miles per hour are posted along the entire system. Nowhere is there signage that states a higher then recommended 80 mph. Every single person using the autobahn must be capable of traveling at speeds greater than 36 mph. You must only pass using the left lane, and will be cited for any right lane passage.

To qualify your vehicle for driving on the autobahn, a vehicle must pass a comprehensive inspection. Disqualification could be from a single rust spot, a dent or a small chip in the windshield.

Speed limits are expected to be adhered to and rigorously enforced. Police use radar speed traps, with penalties resulting in heavy on-the-spot fines. All traffic offenses are subject to on-the-spot fines. On the autobahn, it is rare to see speeders pulled over for speeding. Instead, a camera takes a photograph of your vehicle, and you receive a ticket in the mail. These sleek cameras are almost impossible to spot, especially given the high speeds traveled.

The autobahn is infamous for the number and size of its accidents. As an example, excessive speed led to a crash involving 259 cars. According to the VCD German Transportation Association, Germany could reduce traffic deaths by 30 percent, lower carbon dioxide emissions by 3.4 million tons per year if speeds on autobahn were limited to 75 mph, just 5 mph lower. There is an average of 23,000 accidents each year on the autobahn, and the average deaths are 850 per year. This means that by lowering speed limit by just 5 mph, the VCD estimates there could be 255 fewer deaths per year just on those driving the autobahn.

In Germany and all European countries, you will be camera ticketed for going 5 km over the speed limit. Five km equals 3.1 mph. All drivers are treated the same. There are no exemptions, no privileged drivers like government employees and/or their relatives or friends, no matter what position they hold. Wouldn’t that be unique here? Fairness for all.

Lee LeAndro, Wellington