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German Road Safety Council launches campaign for a motorway speed limit

  • May 12, 2020

The German Road Safety Council, a founding member of ETSC, has launched a call for a generalised speed limit of 130 km/h across the motorway network.

In a resolution of the DVR board published yesterday the organisation said:

“Speed plays a particularly important role with regard to the distance travelled during the reaction time, and the kinetic energy acting on the vehicle occupants. A reduced speed leads to a shorter stopping distance and reduced accident severity with the same reaction time. It also has a positive impact on the harmonisation of traffic flow.

This enables accidents due to high differential speeds to be avoided and serious conflicts and potential accidents to be compensated more easily by drivers.

When choosing their speed, road users are also guided by social norms, for example the speeds that they accept or observe in situations with other road users. The observance of speed limits influences the social norm and thus also the speed selection of individuals, since this means that lower speeds are observed more often and thus also selected.”

The debate over ending unlimited speed on Germany motorways has been on the agenda again for more than a year, after a government commission on the environment recommended introducing a 130 km/h limit.  So far the government has ruled out the change, with the Minister of Transport repeating saying, erroneously, that German motorways are the safest in the world.

According to ETSC’s research, Germany only ranks in tenth place amongst European countries that publish data on deaths per billion-km of motorway travel.  The risk of death on a German motorway is around twice as high as on a British or Danish one.

Germany’s largest automobile association ADAC has said it is “no longer fundamentally opposed” to motorway speed limits, and the second largest, ACE, actively supports a maximum speed of 130 km/h.

The managing director of Volvo Cars in Germany said in December that a speed limit in Germany is “long overdue”.

An amendment to Germany’s road traffic law to impose a 130 km/h motorway speed limit was rejected in a vote in Berlin in February.  It is hoped that DVR’s influential position will help lead to cross-party support for the change.  Vision Zero for road safety became the official government position following advocacy by DVR.

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC said:

“We wholeheartedly welcome DVR’s campaign, which, by coincidence, has come at a time when many policymakers and the public are questioning many of the ways we have designed our transport systems.  The car should not be king in our city centres, when walking, cycling and public transport are so much more sustainable.  Likewise, in the 21st century, there can be no justification for allowing unlimited speed on any type of public road.”

“Aside from the safety and environmental benefits of lower speeds, the car industry may also benefit.  Cars designed and engineered for lower maximum speeds could be cheaper to make.  It’s time for the car industry to take its main inspiration not from the racetrack, but from the idea of making the world a better place.”

Photograph by Dirk Vorderstraße – Creative Commons license,_Kamener_Kreuz,_Rush_Hour_(11783262743).jpg