• Germany's news in English
The Local List
Eight things you never knew about the German Autobahn
The German Autobahn. Photo: DPA

Eight things you never knew about the German Autobahn

The Local · 6 Apr 2016, 15:58

Published: 06 Apr 2016 15:58 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Apr 2016 15:58 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

1. Germans always loved speed

Germany is the only country in the world where there are no speed limits on many sections of its motorway. National speed limits did once exist, but were abolished in 1952, never to return.

In the pre-war days, there were limits in place, but these were still very generous. A section of the Autobahn built between Cologne and Bonn in 1932 had a speed limit of 120 km/h - that’s 8 km/h faster than the current speed limit on Britain's motorways.

The Autobahn speed record was set in 1938, when racing car driver Rudolf Caracciola was recorded driving at 268.9 mph in a Mercedes W125.

2. The Autobahn would stretch a quarter of the way round the Earth

Source: insurance4carhire.com

In its origins in 1913, the Autobahn covered a humble 20 kilometres of German territory. But it developed rapidly.

In 1929, the first car-only route opened between Düsseldorf and Opladen. Adolf Hitler invested massively and by 1939 it had reached 2,995 kilometres in length.

Reunification in 1990 saw the Autobahn jump in size to 8,800 kilometres, as eastern and western roads were joined together. It is currently a 12,950-kilometre network - more than a quarter of the circumference of the Earth.

3. You can land a plane on some sections

Sections of road served as auxiliary airstrips during the Second World War and are therefore strong enough to support the weight of an aircraft.

In general the road has been built with double the thickness of highways in other countries so as to support the weight of cars driving at super fast speeds.

4. Limiting speed is ‘recommended’

While many stretches of the Autobahn do not have a legal speed limit, there is always a recommended top speed of 130 km/h.

And be warned. If you drive over the recommended speed limit you could be held accountable for a crash, even if it was not your fault - this could lead to seriously heated arguments with your insurance company.

Near cities, junctions or in areas under construction, you will find reduced speed signs for between 90 and 120 km/h.

Source: insurance4carhire.com

5. The biggest pile-up involved 100s of cars

The Autobahn has had its share of spectacular crashes, none more so that a 2009 pile-up which involved 259 cars near Hanover. Dozens of people were injured, but remarkably no one was killed.

The Verkehrsclub Deutschland (Traffic Club Germany) have campaigned for speed limits to be imposed, arguing it would save hundreds of lives each year.

6. The Autobahn is safer than US highways

While it may seem counter-intuitive, the Autobahn is safer than many motorways which have speed limits.

Whereas US interstates - with speed limits of 70 mph - have an average of 4.5 fatalities per billion kilometres travelled, the Autobahn only has a fatality rate of 2.7 per billion kilometres.

Story continues below…

Meanwhile, only ten percent of deadly accidents on German roads occur on the Autobahn - the majority happen on country roads or within inner cities.

7. Germany puts A LOT of money into it

One probable reason for the Autobahn’s safety record is the thoroughness of German driving courses - learner drivers have to take lessons on the Autobahn.

Good road maintenance also makes them safer. Germany spends an incredible €825,000 per mile of road annually - that is double what the US invests in its highways.

8. Want speed? Head from Hamburg to Berlin

The longest section of the Autobahn that has no speed controls in between Hamburg and Berlin. Of a total route length of 237 kilometres, 150 kilometres have no speed controls - so theoretically you could drive between the two cities in under two hours.

Source: insurance4carhire.com

See more details in insurance4carhire.com's infographic The Autobahn Adventure.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Isis suspect charged with scouting Berlin attack sites
Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Thursday they had brought charges against a 19-year-old Syrian man accused of having scouted targets in Berlin for a potential attack by the Isis terror group.

Berlin Holocaust memorial could not be built now: creator
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

The architect of the Berlin Holocaust memorial has said that, if he tried to build the monument again today, it would not be possible due to rising xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Germany and the United States.

'Liberal' Germany stopping Europe's 'slide into barbarism'
Ian Kershaw. Photo: DPA

Europe is not slipping into the same dark tunnel of hate and nationalism that it did in the 1930s - mainly thanks to Germany - one of the continent's leading historians has said.

Eurowings strike to hit 40,000 passengers
Travelers impacted by the strike on Thursday wait at Cologne Bonn airport. Photo: DPA.

The day-long strike by a Eurowings cabin crew union is expected to impact some 40,000 passengers on Thursday as hundreds of flights have been cancelled.

Deutsche Bank reports surprise quarter billion profit
Photo: DPA

Troubled German lender Deutsche Bank reported Thursday a surprise €256-million profit in the third quarter, compared with a loss of more than six billion in the same period last year.

US 'warned Merkel' against Chinese takeover of tech firm
Aixtron HQ. Photo: DPA

The German government withdrew its approval for a Chinese firm to purchase Aixtron, which makes semiconductor equipment, after the US secret services raised security concerns, a German media report said Wednesday.

Long-vanished German car brand joins electric race
Photo: DPA

Cars bearing the stamp of once-defunct manufacturer Borgward will once again roll off an assembly line in north Germany from 2018, the firm said Wednesday.

Eurowings cabin crew union to strike all day Thursday
Photo: DPA.

UPDATE: A union representing cabin crews on Lufthansa's budget airline Eurowings has announced that strikes will last all day Thursday as ongoing contract negotiations continue to falter.

Hesse hopes to set example by building Iraqi orphanages
Refugee children in northern Iraq. Photo: DPA

The wealthy central German state of Hesse has set aside €1 million to build a school, family homes and an orphanage in northern Iraq, in an effort to help refugees there.

The Local List
10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
David Hasselhoff. Photo: DPA

Whether it be efficiency, humourlessness or a love of a certain Baywatch star, there are many cliches stuck in the heads of foreigners about Germany. But how true are they?

10 German clichés that foreigners get very wrong
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Germany's 10 most weird and wonderful landmarks
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd