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CRIME

Germany to investigate suspected 417 km/h Autobahn racer

Car-mad Germany may be known for its speed limit-less Autobahns, but a Czech businessman's suspected 417 kilometre-per-hour (260 mph) drag down a stretch of motorway has run into trouble with local law enforcement.

A sports car speeds down the Autobahn
A racing car speeds down the Autobahn. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Maserati | Lorenzo Marcinno

The prosecutor’s office in Stendal in the northern state of Saxony-Anhalt said it had launched a probe into a potential illegal race over the incident.

The wealthy sports car owner from the Czech Republic posted videos of the drive in a Bugatti Chiron on YouTube, bringing attention to the incident.

“We thank God for the safety and good circumstances”, Radim Passer wrote in the video description on his channel.

Some of the videos display a virtual speedometer which reaches 417 km/h on a stretch of motorway between Berlin and Magdeburg, to the west of the capital.

READ ALSO: German Autobahns to remain speeders’ paradise as parties rule out limits

While the recordings were made in the middle of last year, the videos were only recently posted online but have since been viewed millions of times.

In response to comments that said the drive was irresponsible and dangerous, Passer said he had had “good visibility” and highlighted his Bugatti’s braking power.

Highway police initiated an investigation after the feat was reported widely across different media.

The results were handed over to the prosecutor’s office, which began a legal assessment of the incident.

According to the criminal code, a solo drive can still be classed as a prohibited race if the driver “advances at an inappropriate speed and in a manner that grossly violates the traffic code and is reckless.”

Germany’s Transport Minister Volker Wissing condemned the driver’s attitude, noting that while there is no speed limit, the car should always be “under control”.

Others have used the incident to make the case for introducing a legal limit, including the premier of Lower Saxony state, Stephan Weil, who told Spiegel magazine there were “many good reasons” to cap speed on motorways, including the environment and safety.

READ ALSO: Majority of Germans ‘want Autobahn speed limit’

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DRIVING

German state environment ministers push for Autobahn speed limit

Environment ministers in Germany's 16 states want to see a temporary Autobahn speed limit to help cut down reliance on Russian gas.

German state environment ministers push for Autobahn speed limit

Calls have been growing for a temporary speed limit or Tempolimit on Germany’s Autobahn network to further reduce dependency on Russia’s energy amid the war on Ukraine.

But the move has seen severe pushback from some politicians – in particular the Free Democrats (FDP).

On Friday, German media site Spiegel reported that the Conference of Environment Ministers had come out in favour of a temporary speed limit on the Autobahn, which is the only stretch of motorway in Europe where people can drive as fast as they want in many sections.

It’s a significant move given that the issue is so contentious in Germany. 

Spiegel said that the ministers agreed a resolution on Friday to introduce a temporary nationwide speed limit. However, they did not specify what the maximum speed should be.

The Greens have campaigned for a number of years to impose a 130km/h (around 80 mph) limit on German motorways – but the party had to abandon this electoral promise last year during coalition negotiations to keep the freedom-loving FDP from walking.

According to environment ministers in the states, a general speed limit should be introduced as a “cost-effective, quickly to implement, and immediately effective measure” so that Germany consumes less petrol and diesel, and becomes less dependent on oil imports.

READ ALSO: Could Germany introduce an Autobahn speed limit?

At the same time, the step would help protect the climate, keep the air clean, reduce noise and make roads safer, they said. The speed limit could “initially be introduced for a limited period during the ongoing conflict”, the resolution said in reference to the war in Ukraine. In the long term, the focus is on the expansion of electric mobility and local public transport.

“I think it is absolutely right that we set a visible sign,” Lower Saxony’s environment minister Olaf Lies (SPD), chair of the conference, told Spiegel. “We did not have an ideological debate.”

Rather, he said, it was about a pragmatic response to the supply crisis because of the war.

The move was backed by all states. The environment ministers in Bavaria (Thorsten Glauber, Free Voters) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Lutz Lienenkämper, CDU) voted in favour, but issued a note stating that they only expect a speed limit to have a limited effect.

In the other 14 states, the ministries are led by the Greens or the SPD.

The federal states can’t implement the decision on their own – this would require a federal law.

“Now it’s the federal government’s turn,” tweeted Hesse environment minister Priska Hinz (Greens). 

So far, none of the states has announced an initiative in the Bundesrat, the parliament that represents the states – but they are sending a strong message to the federal government. 

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