Revered as functional and safe, Germany’s Autobahn is one of the most well-known highway systems in the world. Spanning the entire country, it’s inspired highways and roadways all over the world. The Autobahn is a testament to engineering, government policy, and community. But what makes it so safe? And how does it stack up against the U.S. highways?
Is the Autobahn safest?
Research by the Federal Highway Research Institute states that the Autobahn experiences fewer vehicle-related fatalities than the U.S. This means this German highway experiences fewer deaths per billion miles traveled than American highways.
This begs the question: Is the Autobahn’s limitless speed the key to its safety success? The highway systems in the U.S. were inspired by the Autobahn, among other roadways. So what makes the German highway different?
What makes the Autobahn so safe
The Autobahn is known for its unrestricted speed limits. This means you can drive as fast as you want. Contrary to popular belief, the entire Autobahn is not speed-limit-less; it has unrestricted areas as well as areas with speed limitations. You’d think this would cause problems, but Germany put a lot of thought into transportation.
Receiving a driver’s license involves strict guidelines in Germany. This ensures that only the most disciplined people can drive on the roads. According to Business Insider, getting your driving license in Germany can take up to six months to complete and cost more than $2000.
In order to get a license, residents must meet requirements including basic first-aid training and extensive driving lessons (including real-life situations on the Autobahn). Applicants must also take a difficult multiple-choice exam and as well as a road test. In the end, better drivers equate to lesser accidents.
Germany also takes road maintenance very seriously and focuses on building high-quality roads. For better driving in winter conditions, the Autobahn is made with multiple layers of a freeze-resistant concrete mix. The roads within the Autobahn system are inspected regularly for damage, with entire areas being replaced when necessary.
Individual vehicles must undergo extensive inspections to ensure safety. Unlike other areas of the world, certain traffic violations like tailgating and disregarding the “left lane is for passing only” rule are heavily regulated and fined.
The history of the Autobahn
From 1913 to 1921, the Autobahn was an experimental highway that connected networks of roads around Berlin. By 1932, it had grown to unite roadways in multiple cities. Then, during World War II, Adolf Hitler continued construction, according to USA Today. By the end of the war, the Autobahn had more than 1,300 miles of highway connecting cities in Germany.
By 1984, the Autobahn had grown to 5,000 miles of highway. When Germany reunified in 1990, the government reworked the roads and expanded them further. According to GQ, the Autobahn grew to 7,500 miles by 2002 and 8,000 miles by 2016. It has 65 tunnels, anywhere between two and four lanes in each direction, and no toll booths. Around 65% of the Autobahn has zero speed limitations.
Countries all over the world can learn from Germany’s example set of safety set by the Autobahn.