Germans Favor Speed Limits for Autobahn

January 27, 2019 Updated: January 27, 2019

BERLIN—A majority of Germans favor setting maximum speed limits for Germany’s famously fast Autobahns, according to a poll published on Jan. 26.

Fifty-two percent of those polled wanted vehicle speeds limited to between 120 kph and 140 kph (75 mph and 87 mph), the poll conducted by the Emnid institute and published by Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed. Forty-six percent opposed such limits.

A government-appointed committee studying the future of transport is looking at ending the “no limits” sections on motorways as part of a broader proposal to help Germany meet European Union emissions targets.

Not everyone is on board with the plans.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, a conservative from Bavaria, the home state of carmakers Daimler and Audi, a unit of Volkswagen, said he opposed setting speed limits on Germany’s decades-old motorway network.

“The principle of freedom has proven itself. Whoever wants to drive 120 can drive 120, and those who want to go faster can do that too. Why this constant micromanagement?” he told the newspaper.

Scheuer said German highways were the safest in the world, and that imposing a speed limit would cut the country’s overall carbon emissions by less than 0.5 percent.

He said 7,640 km (4,747 miles) of German highways—about 30 percent of the total—already had speed limits, and that he plans to meet with the committee to discuss its proposals, which are to be finalized by the end of March.

“The goal is to think about the work they’re doing and to generate results, instead of revisiting old, rejected, and unrealistic demands like speed limits,” he said.

The government is torn between the need to protect Germany’s crucial car industry, buffeted by a series of costly emissions cheating scandals in recent years, and the need to cut greenhouse gases to meet EU and domestic emissions requirements.