A row over whether Germany should enforce a 130km per hour (80mph) speed limit on the sections of the German Autobahn where people can drive as fast as they want has been brewing for many years.
It was reignited recently by politicians and campaigners who say a Tempolimit is another measure to help Germany cut down on Russian gas as it tries to move away from relying on energy from President Vladimir Putin.
But Transport Minister Volker Wissing, who belongs to the Free Democrats (FDP), has spoken out against introducing a speed limit – partly because he believes there aren’t enough information signs in stock.
In an interview with the Hamburger Morgenpost, Wissing said a speed limit in Germany is “extremely controversial” and “also divides society very strongly”.
He also pointed to the “considerable effort” that introducing a general speed limit for a restricted time on the German Autobahn system would cause.
“You would have to put up appropriate signs if you do it for three months, and then take them down again,” he said. “We don’t even have that many signs in stock.”
The German Autobahn is the only stretch of motorway in Europe where many sections don’t have a speed limit, although maximum speeds of 130km per hour are recommended.
The statement is reminiscent of German health insurance companies’ argument recently that there wasn’t enough paper to introduce a vaccine mandate.
Some people poked fun at the similarities on Twitter.
The other day: "we can't have a vaccine mandate in Germany because there is not enough paper to send that many letters"
— Giulio Mattioli (@giulio_mattioli) April 5, 2022
The response came after Green Party leader Ricarda Lang called for a temporary speed limit at the weekend.
She told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) it was a measure that would have a quick impact, saying that “we need a temporary speed limit on motorways now – for example for nine months and thus until the end of the year, which is the time when we want to become independent of Russian oil at the latest”.
In general, pro-speed limit campaigners believe a speed limit would limit CO2 emissions and make roads safer.
But critics say a speed limit would infringe on people’s right to drive fast – and that the roads in Germany are already safe.
Social Democrat MP Sebastian Roloff told Handelsblatt that there were very good arguments for a speed limit.
“For example, it saves energy in a very simple way,” he said, adding that a majority of people in Germany were in favour of the measure.
“Therefore, we should implement it quickly now,” he said.
The Chief Executive of the German Association of Cities and Towns, Helmut Dedy, recently stressed that more attention needed to be paid to the consumption of energy.
“That’s why we are arguing for a speed limit to be considered now,” he said. “This would allow us to immediately raise a savings potential.”
The FDP, however, stands by its strict rejection of a Tempolimit, which was one of its dealbreakers when entering into a coalition with the Social Democrats and Greens last year.
Parliamentary state secretary in the Transport Ministry, Daniela Kluckert (FDP), stressed that a speed limit on motorways had not been agreed in the coalition agreement, adding: “This decision stands.”