Hamburg named German state with most congested motorways

Ahead of even Berlin, the traffic jams on motorways in the city-state of Hamburg totalled a length of 31,630 kilometres last year, according to data released by the German Automotive Club (ADAC) on Tuesday.

Hamburg named German state with most congested motorways
The Autobahn 7 in Hamburg in July 2017. Photo: DPA

By calculating the total length of the autobahn traffic jams which took place in the Hanseatic city in 2017, the ADAC came to an index number of 390 for Hamburg – just ahead of Berlin which had an index number of 388.

Thus, the ADAC found that traffic on Hamburg's motorways was more congested than in any other federal state last year; the port city had the highest number of traffic jams in proportion to its existing autobahn length.

With the congestion kilometres in Hamburg reaching 31,630, this was just under 14 percent more than in the previous year. The state of Schleswig-Holstein also saw an increase from 2016. Last year, Schleswig-Holstein saw a six percent rise in congestion from the previous year to a total length of 34,694 kilometres.

Nationwide congestion on motorways increased by five percent in 2017, adding up to a total length of 1.45 million kilometres, the ADAC reported.

According to Die Welt, traffic jams in Hamburg can be partly attributed to its many construction sites, especially in the north of the city.

Congestion often occurs in the harbour city on the A7 motorway between Hamburg-Nordwest and Schnelsen as well as before the Elbe tunnel between Waltershof and Othmarschen, Welt reports. Further north, traffic congestion frequently takes place between Quickborn and Schnelsen-Nord as well as around Neumünster.

Meanwhile the ADAC also released data which showed that there was more traffic than ever before on German motorways last year. As the Statista chart above indicates, around 723,000 traffic jams were recorded in the Bundesrepublik in 2017 – a jump from 694,000 recorded in 2016.

To account for this significant increase, the ADAC points to the fact that roads are under construction and the number of vehicles on the roads is constantly increasing. As well, the recording of traffic has improved.

North Rhine-Westphalia (35 percent), Bavaria (18 percent) and Baden-Württemberg (11 percent) were the three states in which the largest number of traffic jams were reported. Combined, these states account for a total of 64 percent of all reported traffic jams.

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COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

Certain countries around Europe have stricter policies than others regarding drinking and driving and harsher punishments for those caught exceeding legal limits. Here's what you need to know.

COMPARE: Which countries in Europe have the strictest drink-drive limits?

European countries set their own driving laws and speed limits and it’s no different when it comes to legal drink-drive limits.

While the safest thing to do of course, is to drink no alcohol at all before driving it is useful to know what the limit is in the country you are driving in whether as a tourist or as someone who frequently crosses European borders by car for work.

While some countries, such as the Czech Republic, have zero tolerance for drinking and driving, in others people are allowed to have a certain amount of alcohol in their blood while driving.

However, not only can the rules be different between countries, they are usually stricter for commercial (or bus) drivers and novice drivers as well. Besides that, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is extremely difficult to estimate, so the old “one beer is ok” standards no longer safely apply.

In the end, the only way to be safe is to avoid consuming alcohol before driving. Any amount will slow reflexes while giving you dangerous higher confidence. According to the UK’s National Health Service, there is no ‘safe’ drinking level.

How is blood alcohol level measured?

European countries mostly measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the amount, in grams, of alcohol in one litre of blood.

After alcohol is consumed, it will be absorbed fast from the stomach and intestine to the bloodstream. There, it is broken down by a liver-produced enzyme.

Each person will absorb alcohol at their own speed, and the enzyme will also work differently in each one.

The BAC will depend on these metabolic particularities as well as body weight, gender, how fast and how much the person drank, their age and whether or not (and how much) they have eaten, and even stress levels at the time.

In other words there are many things that may influence the alcohol concentration.

The only way to effectively measure BAC is by taking a blood test – even a breathalyser test could show different results. Still, this is the measuring unit used by many EU countries when deciding on drinking limits and penalties for drivers.

Here are the latest rules and limits.

Driving is a great way to enjoy scenic European roads. Pictured is a highway in Norway (Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash)

Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, and Croatia

In most EU countries, the limit is just under 0.5g/l for standard drivers (stricter rules could be in place for novice or professional drivers).

This could be exceeded by a man with average weight who consumed one pint of beer (containing 4.2% alcohol) and two glasses of red wine (13% alcohol) while having dinner.

If a person is caught driving with more than 0.8g/l of blood alcohol content in Austria, they can pay fines of up to € 5,900 and to have their license taken for one year in some cases.

In France, if BAC exceeds 0.8g/l, they could end up with a 2-year jail sentence and a € 4,500 fine. In Germany, penalties start at a € 500 fine and a one-month license suspension. In Greece, drunk drivers could face up to years of imprisonment.

In Denmark, first time offenders are likely to have their licences suspended and could be required to go on self-paid alcohol and traffic courses if BAC levels are low. Italy has penalties that vary depending on whether or not the driver has caused an accident and could lead to car apprehension, fines and prison sentences.

In Spain, going over a 1.2g/l limit is a criminal offence that could lead to imprisonment sentences and hefty fines. 

Norway, Sweden, and Poland

In Norway, Sweden, and Poland, the limit for standard drivers is 0.2g/l. It could take a woman with average weight one standard drink, or one can of beer, to reach that level.

Penalties in Norway can start at a one month salary fine and a criminal record. In Poland, fines are expected if you surpass the limit, and you could also have your license revoked and receive a prison sentence.

Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia have one of the strictest rules in the European Union. There is no allowed limit of alcohol in the blood for drivers.

In the Czech Republic, fines start at € 100 to € 800, and a driving ban of up to one year can be instituted for those driving with a 0.3 BAC level. However, the harshest penalties come if the BAC level surpasses 1 g/l, fines can be up to € 2,000, and drivers could be banned from driving for 10 years and imprisoned for up to three years.

This is intended to be a general guide and reference. Check the current and specific rules in the country you plan to travel to. The easiest and best way to be safe and protect yourself and others is to refrain from drinking alcohol and driving.