Fact check: Will a speed limit on Germany's Autobahn be beneficial?

The Local Germany
The Local Germany - [email protected]
Fact check: Will a speed limit on Germany's Autobahn be beneficial?
A segment of the Autobahn in Herrenberg, Baden-Württemberg

In order to cut carbon emissions and prevent accidents, should Germany's famous Autobahn enact a speed limit? We look at the facts behind the heated debate.


This is a German language learner article. The words in bold are translated at the bottom of the article.

In Germany, there has been a decades-long dispute asking if speed limits should be enacted on Germany’s world famous Autobahn.

Last week the debate became particularly heated when a proposal from the National Platform on the Future of Mobility recommended a speed limit of 130km/h to more effectively reduce transportation-related environmental damage.

Proposed speed limit enforcements on the Autobahn are “against all common sense,” Minister of Transportation Andrews Scheuer said in Munich Saturday in response.

Is this true? We fact check the impact that a general speed limit could have on Germany's motorways - 70 percent which famously have no speed limit at all.

SEE ALSO: Germany considers Autobahn speed limit to fight climate change

ASSERTION: A general speed limit on motorways will reduce the number of deaths on the roads.

BACKGROUND: This is difficult to assess. Today, motorways are considered to be the safest roads in Germany, even though they are the busiest routes. Some experts hope that a speed limit will result in less serious accidents.

Motorways are the safest roads in terms of kilometres driven. According to data from the Federal Highway Research Institute, motor vehicles covered about one-third of their distance on motorways in 2017, reported DPA.

But only one in eight road deaths (12.9 percent) was due to a motorway. Of the 409 people who died here, 181 were killed in accidents in which motorists had exceeded their maximum speed or had driven too fast for road or weather conditions.

A study for Brandenburg published by the Potsdam Ministry for Infrastructure and Regional Planning in 2007 showed that on state roads where speed limits were introduced, the number of accidents, fatalities and injuries fell significantly.

The ADAC, however, does not consider the influence of general speed limits on the number of accidents to be proven, according to DPA. It relies on flexible maximum speed limits adapted to current road conditions to ensure that traffic flows smoothly.

Graph produced for The Local Germany from Statista.

ASSERTION: Speed limits contribute to climate protection.

BACKGROUND: The reduction of pollutant emissions is often cited as an argument for introducing a general speed limit on German motorways.

According to data from the Federal Environment Agency, at a speed limit of 120 km/h, CO2 (carbon dioxide) and HC (hydrocarbons) emissions would each be reduced by 9 percent and NOx emissions (nitrogen oxides) by 6 percent.

In relation to Germany's total emissions, the effect is correspondingly lower, according to a recent report from Statista.

The data refer to the year 1995 and only to the former political West Germany. In the meantime, the following conditions have changed: Germany's total CO2 emissions have fallen from 938 million tonnes to 802 million tonnes (2016).

The mileage of passenger cars on German motorways has risen from 203 (2000) to 244 (2016) billion kilometres. It is also expected that CO2 emissions from newly registered cars in Germany will increase in the coming years, as manufacturers will now have to measure fuel consumption using new and more accurate WLTP (formerly NEDC) methods. An increase can already be observed.

Graph produced for The Local Germany by Statista.

German vocab

Tempolimit - speed limit

lässt...sinken - reduce

schwer einzuschätzen - difficult to assess

die hier starben - who died here

schwer einzuschätzen - difficult to assess

gefahrene Kilometer - kilometres driven

beziehen sich auf das Jahr 1995 - refers to the year 1995

folgende Bedingungen - following conditions


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Anonymous 2019/01/24 19:46
Wanna do something for climate change? Ditch coal and go back to nuclear power.<br /><br />Dumbshit Greenies.

See Also