Derestricted autobahns are emerging as an electoral issue in Germany. Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the opposition SPD party, is in support of introducing a 120km/h (75mph) limit on all autobahns.

Gabriel has cited accident statistics that show a lower amount of deaths and serious injury on restricted motorways as justification for the move. At present, 40 per cent of German autobahns have a 130km/h (81mph) limit imposed temporarily or permanently, and it remains a recommended limit on derestricted roads.

The SPD has made no formal policy on the idea and aims to consult provincial councils if the plan progresses. The Green Party in Germany has also suggested an 80km/h (50mph) limit on country roads, a suggestion on which Sigmar Gabriel refused to comment. However, an SPD-Green coalition has been rumoured if the SPD is elected to office.

Opposing the SPD and Green argument is Germany's automobile organisation ADAC, which believes Gabriel's argument is 'unsustainable'. ADAC spokesperson Andreas Hölzel told newspaper Bild that the current autobahn infrastructure in Germany makes for very safe roads. Despite being used for a third of German road travel, the autobahns accounted for just 11 per cent of Germany's serious traffic accidents and fatalities in 2012.

Hölzel was also keen to highlight that no comparison has yet been made between accidents on derestricted autobahns and those with a speed limit in place.

ADAC is therefore advocating the introduction of roundabouts to replace dangerous junctions and adding passing lanes to blackspot areas on minor roads. Its reasoning stems from the fact that 60 per cent of German road deaths occur on country roads. 

Matt Bird