The car whizzed by me as if I was standing still, a quickly vanishing blur. I glanced at my speedometer. The needle was steady at 140 km/hr.
I figure the driver of the other vehicle was doing around 200. That’s fast, even when you say it as 120 mph. But he wasn’t speeding. Neither was I. There are no speed limits on that particular section of Germany’s Autobahn highway network.
I was going faster than normal, as I was going with the traffic flow in the slow lane. You get used to the speeds. Though I think my almost twenty-year-old vehicle might come apart if I tried to go faster than 140.
But spending almost six hours Saturday watching people pass me at much higher speeds did leave me with some questions.
The first was about safety. Are there studies to show that highways with no speed limits have no more accidents than those with speed controls? I would think that the faster you are going the less time you have to react to something unexpected.
Even if there aren’t more accidents, there are probably more fatalities. At that speed, how can there not be? Maybe airbags can’t inflate that fast.
My second question was why Germany, the birthplace of the political green movement, allows such pollution?
Any driver will tell you that the faster you drive the, more gas you burn. And most of the cars here use diesel, which I have always thought was a dirtier fuel than gasoline. How can Germans justify this assault on the environment?
In 1973 the US reduced speed limits to reduce gasoline consumption. It worked, until the limits were raised again.
Is this just a cultural blind spot? Or is driving fast more important than driving green?
Who should I ask?
I have no desire to set any speed records. Given a choice, I prefer to take the train. I have no idea how fast it is going – but I can read a book while it does.
That makes for a more relaxing trip.