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The German Autobahn: Brief History and About the Upsides of a Speed Limit Introduction

The German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introduction 7 photos
Photo: deutschland.de
The German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introductionThe German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introductionThe German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introductionThe German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introductionThe German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introductionThe German Autobahn: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introduction
A speed limit constraints almost every road on the planet, but out there, besides the Isle of Man, is something extraordinary in Germany called the Autobahn.
In this article, we will discuss a little bit about the dark history of the Autobahn (which basically translates as car runway), the benefits it has, and the possibility of introducing a speed limit in the near future.

The Autobahn forms the basis of the first modern national expressway system. In 2022, it stretches for over 13,192 kilometers (8,197 miles), making it the third most extended system in the world behind those in the United States and China. However, when you consider the size of Germany and the others nations, it's awe-inspiring what they have done. Then there is the exciting part of traveling as fast as you like without the fear of flashing lights behind you, because long stretches of the German Autobahn come without any speed limits.

Now let's jump a little bit into the history part. While the first Autobahn didn't appear until 1932, the principles of the idea were based a long time before. After World War I, Germany experienced high unemployment and struggled to kick-start its industries again. As a result, the construction of the Autobahn system was seen as a way of stimulating growth and prosperity in the country. Germany had already experimented with the Avus highway near Berlin, which opened in 1921 and was actually a kind of racetrack.

The first purpose-built Autobahn to be used exclusively by everyday men and women was the 555, built between 1929 and 1932, connecting Cologne and Bonn. However, it was still considered a country road when it was finished and wasn't given official status until 1958. When Adolf Hitler took power in 1933, the idea of a large-scale highway system was already well in the works. Hitler saw the benefits it would bring, so he immediately jumped on it.

The German Autobahn\: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introduction
Photo: DW
The system was seen as the ideal way of bringing down Germany's high unemployment rate, which was a significant problem at that time. As a funny note, Germany was preparing to create a colossal road network, but they had a minor issue. At that time, the country didn't exactly have a vast fleet of automobiles on its road, but Hitler had a plan. He intended to provide Germans people with cheap and good cars that would be for everybody. Can you guess the name of these cars? Yep, Volkswagen (which translates as people's car). In 1938, genius engineer Ferdinand Porsche completed his design for the Beetle model.

Unfortunately, as many Germans were waiting for their cars, World War II started, and all factories switched their plans to military vehicles. Nobody received any car or any refund. Workers from around Germany (volunteers and forced workers) were brought to various camps along the new road projects and put to work building the Autobahn system.

At its peeks, the project was employing around 120,000 people, and by 1942 3,800 kilometers (2,360 miles) of Autobahn were made. After World War II, damaged roads were repaired, and the construction of new highway roads was restarted in the 1950s. A noticeable difference between the east and west roads could be seen because better materials were used in the west.

Germany has undergone a considerable widening and rehabilitation program in the last decade on its Autobahn system. Most sections of Germany's Autobahns have two or three, sometimes four lanes in each direction in addition to an emergency lane. Undoubtedly, this is one of the finest kept highway systems in the world. But are these speed limit-free zones of the Autobahn really a good thing?

The German Autobahn\: A Brief History and the possibility of a speed limit introduction
Photo: DW
Well, per capita, traffic-related deaths in Germany are one of the lowest in the world, with just 3.7 deaths per 100,000, while in the United States (which has strict speed limits throughout the country), there are 12.4 deaths per 100,000. It's also tougher to get a driving license in Germany, so drivers may be more careful and disciplined.

Still, more than half of the German population actually supports the idea of a limit on the Autobahn. Even Sebastian Vettel is a massive supporter of this idea. Besides, introducing a speed limit could save tons of fuel every year, which these days could help Germany a lot.

Let us know what you think if the Autobahn should stay a place of freedom for speed lovers or is time for a change.
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About the author: Silvian Irimia
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Silvian may be the youngest member of our team, being born in the 2000s, but you won't find someone more passionate than him when it comes to motorsport. An automotive engineer by trade, Silvian considers the Ferrari F50 his favorite car, with the original Lamborghini Countach a close second.
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