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Leonid Bershidsky

Germans Need Their Freedom to Speed

Autobahn speed limits would reduce carbon emissions and save some lives. They should be rejected anyway.

Not so fast.

Not so fast.

Photographer: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

A government commission has recommended a speed limit on the autobahns in Germany, the only rich country where a driver doesn’t need to watch the speedometer on most of the highways. So the nation is debating what speed restrictions can actually achieve in terms of traffic safety and climate protection, a conversation the rest of the world should tune in to, as well.

Germany actually has speed limits on about 40 percent of its 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) of autobahns, where authorities believe road conditions warrant it and where road repairs are taking place. But the other 60 percent are a territory of freedom unlike anything elsewhere. There are no highway speed limits in Afghanistan or Nepal, either, but anyone who’s tried to drive there knows that going fast is somewhere between risky and suicidal. Besides, Germany’s highway network is the fourth biggest in the world, after those of China, the U.S. and Spain.