Life in the Fast Lane on the Autobahn

Picture yourself in your dream car, speeding down a band of concrete that stretches all the way to the horizon. Sounds good? Welcome to the German Autobahn, where such daydreams can become a reality for car enthusiasts flocking to Germany from around the world.

Autobahn Enlarge image (© picture-alliance/chromorange)

The Autobahn is perhaps most famous for the uniquely German invention not having a general speed limit. What you might not know though, is that there is an advisory speed of 130 km/h – what Germans call the 'Richtgeschwindigkeit'. And in some areas, there might even be a strictly enforced speed limit, for instance where parts of the Autobahn flow through a city or in areas with dangerous curves. In addition, certain vehicles, like trucks, are always regulated and many sections now feature dynamic speed limits, using an elaborate system of high-tech electronic signs. That being said, the Autobahn is still considered a prime destination for drivers wanting to test the limits of their engines – and rightly so – but there is a lot more to the Autobahn.

Autobahn Enlarge image The A9 Autobahn near Bindlach in the Oberfranken region of northern Bavaria. (© dpa - Report) For millions of Germans, the Autobahn is by far the most convenient way to travel around their country. This is hardly surprising when you consider that the Autobahn stretches over 8000 miles to cover just about all of Germany. The 'density' of the German Autobahn is 0.057 miles of Autobahn for every square mile of German soil. Compare that to the U.S. Interstate Highway System's 'density' of 0.012 miles per square mile and it becomes pretty clear why the 'Auto' is Germany's most popular mode of transport.

The purpose of the Autobahn is to offer speed and free-flowing traffic to its travelers, and this becomes pretty clear when you consider some of the specialties of the Autobahn. For instance, there is a legal minimum speed limit – if your car, motorcycle, scooter or whatever else you might drive is not physically capable of going at least 60 km/h or 37 mph, you are not allowed to drive on the Autobahn. To facilitate free flow of traffic, the Autobahn also features some of the best driving surfaces in the world, unusually long acceleration and deceleration lanes and mostly straight lines.

Autobahn Enlarge image Autobahn (© picture-alliance/Ohlenschlaeger)

Finally, it should be noted that although there is no blanket speed limit on the Autobahn, it is still one of the safest roads in the world. It is on par with other European countries and has fewer deaths per billion vehicle kilometers than the US.

German cars are famous throughout the world for powerful engines and meticulous engineering – and the Autobahn is the other side of that coin. It is the road German engineers have in mind when building a car, it is the natural habitat of Audis, BMWs, Mercedes and Porsches – it completes the German driving experience. Perhaps the ultimate driving experience, period, the Autobahn literally offers life in the fast lane.


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