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Autobhan: here's why there is no speed limit

The first expressway in the world was built in Germany in 1921, with a length of 8.3 km, it connects Grunwald and Berlin and was put into service on September 24, 1921. It was also considered the fastest circuit in the world. world. The circuit "Automobil-Verkehrs- und Übungs-Straße GmbH or AVUS (acronym translatable as "Circulation and automobile test road") was thought of in 1909. It was Italy that in 1924 would build the first motorway in the world with the highway of the Lakes (autostrada) which connects Milan to the region of the lakes (85 km).


The first German motorway was inaugurated on August 6, 1932 by Konrad Adenauer at the end of the Weimar Republic. It connects Cologne to Bonn and is limited to 120 km/h, which at the time was well worth the absence of a limit. Previously, expressway projects had already emerged. It is therefore not the Führer Adolf Hitler who is the instigator contrary to popular belief, but he was nevertheless the one who will develop the motorway network (autostrade) for his purposes of Nazi propaganda.



Length of the motorway network over time:


- 1935: 108 km

- 1936: 1,087 km

- 1937: 2,010 km

- 1939: 3,301 km

- 1940: 3,737 km

- 1943: 3,896 km

- 1950: FRG = 2,128 km, GDR = 1,375 km, Total = 3,503 km

- 1956: FRG = 2,261 km, GDR = 1,376 km, Total = 3,637 km

- 1963: FRG = 3,077 km, RDA = 1,415 km, Total = 4,492 km

- 1975: FRG = 6,207 km, GDR = 1,667 km, Total = 7,874 km

- 1988: FRG = 8,721 km, GDR = 1,957 km, Total = 10,678 km

- 1992: 11,013 km

- 2005: 12,174 km


Among other things, the Nazis wanted to curry favor with their people by reducing unemployment through large construction sites, and also in a hidden way, to create infrastructures allowing them to develop their industries and travel for military purposes, and those at dawn of what will be the Second World War.



Thus on February 11, 1933, only a few days after his accession to power, Hitler gave an important speech to German industrialists, during the international exhibition of automobiles and motorcycles held on the Kaiserdamm in Berlin. Presenting the automobile as the industry of the future, Hitler announced the implementation of a major road construction plan under state control. The operation was entrusted in June 1933 to Fritz Todt, who received the title of general inspector of German roads. It relates to the construction of 5 to 6000 kilometers of motorways within the framework of a vast program of "national-socialist building sites". The flagship of the operation must be the construction of a motorway of more than 800 kilometers, crossing all of Germany from North to South and linking Hamburg to Basel (the HAFRABA, Hansestädte-Frankfurt-Basel).



The "highway builder" is entirely part of the myth of the Führer and contributes to his popularity among the German masses in the late thirties. The objective of highway construction is twofold and can serve the regime's propaganda from two different angles: first of all, it is a question of fighting unemployment, the works having to provide employment for several hundred thousand workers . But the motorways must also symbolize Germany's entry into a new era, that of technology and modernity.


On July 5, 1933, Germany began the Autobahn project, the official term was Bundesautobahn (or BAB, “federal highway”).

Autobahnen were built before the country had enough motor vehicles to justify the expense. Only the rich or powerful in Germany could afford automobiles. Hitler had pointed out this problem in a speech given on March 3, 1934 at the International Automobile and Motorcycle Show in Berlin:

One can only say with deep sadness that in the present age of civilization, the ordinary hard-working citizen still cannot afford a car, modern means of transport and a source of pleasure during leisure hours. You have to have the courage to face the problems and what cannot be solved in a year can become an established fact in ten years.

Hitler intended to provide a small, affordable "people's car" (Volkswagen) with which his people could fill the highway.



The German road network then became the most developed network in the world, making even the Americans jealous to the point that they will be inspired by it. And if the ambitions on this subject were achieved, this was not the case for the balance sheet of road accidents. If at the beginning the new Nazi regime adopted a lax attitude on the roads, leaving all latitude to motorists, the Reich government justified this anomaly by arguing that the good National Socialists would not abuse their freedom of expression in motor vehicles, any reckless or irresponsible driving behind the wheel would be fundamentally "anti-national socialist", then stormed the Völkischer Beobachter, official press organ of the Nazi party, he will quickly become disillusioned, since from 1933 to 1939, traffic accidents caused between 6,500 and 8,000 dead in Germany; the roads of the Nazi nation were then the most dangerous in Europe. The carnage was also on the new highways, despite the relative absence of traffic jams and cross-traffic. Hitler was furious: the roads were robbing him of healthy Germans, who should have come to swell the ranks of the army or other crucial services. “The [motorists] who deprive the nation of 7,000 dead and between 30,000 and 40,000 injured are a scourge of the people, he said then. Their actions are irresponsible, so they should be punished, of course.” This punishment will obviously only apply to drivers who have not already taken their own life.



Driven by the desire to stop the bleeding of valid blood, Hitler's administration changed the traffic laws in November 1937: it was now possible to bring to justice motorists who had caused an accident, but also those those who behaved in a reckless way (without being at the origin of a drama). This change did not have the desired effect; in the face of stagnating traffic accident rates, the regime therefore went even further: in May 1939, it reimposed a limit of 60 km/h in built-up areas and 90 km/h on roads (including the autobahn ). In November 1939, after the start of what was to become World War II, Hitler's government reduced the speed limit on the highways to 80 km/h in order to preserve gasoline for the war effort – but the initial initiative was indeed aimed at saving lives, a concern rarely associated with the action of the Fürher.



This is how the Nazi ideology is set up. But the Second World War ended and with it the end of the Nazi regime.



And it is there, after a historical account that we answer our question, why there is not, or no longer had a speed limit on the die Autobahnen?


Germany defeated, a new administration is put in place and the signs of the past must disappear to make way for a new history. The autobahn being an image of the growth of Nazism and the rules that were applied to it were to be abolished with it. It was then that in 1951 the speed limit was simply abolished on the die Autobahnen.


It must be said that at the time the vehicles were hardly as powerful as today and that time passes. The German legislator will partly reconsider this decision, but in the country of the car we cannot derogate from the pleasure of these users.


Thus, today, 66% of the German motorway network remains unlimited. The rest of the network has since 2019 been limited to 130 km/h (and in rare cases 100 km/h). However, the decision to reinstate the speed limit on the autobahn is not intended to reduce the number of accidents on the highways, but to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That said, in reality, it's not even a ban, but a recommendation, so if you exceed 130km/h you won't be fined.

Some sections are also equipped with electronic signs that regulate the speed according to traffic or the weather ("80 bei Nässe" signs).




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