Speed limit: Vienna to hit the gas as Paris hits brakes

The French government has lowered the speed limit on two-lane motorways from 90 to 80 km/h in a bid to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities. Austria, meanwhile, is racing in the other direction: the government in Vienna wants to raise the speed limit on motorways from 130 to 140 km/h. Commentators agree that slow is the way to go.

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Le Monde (FR) /

Good for the wallet - and for public health

The measure won't just improve conditions on France's roads, writes Julien Dubuis of the League Against Road Violence in Le Monde:

“Lowering the speed limit by 10 km/h will lower the consumption of a mid-sized sedan by around 0.8 litres per 100 km, for an estimated saving of 1.20 euros per 100 km. ... But more importantly, at the national level a drop in total petrol consumption will mean less air pollution. This pollution causes countless cases of respiratory illness and roughly 50,000 premature deaths per year in France. If taking our foot off the gas pedal cuts air pollution even by 1 percent, that alone would save around 500 lives per year! ... What's more, there will be an impact on the macroeconomic balance. Burning less fossil fuel would lower crude oil imports, leading to a slight improvement in France's trade balance.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Good news for speeders and tailgaters

The Austrian government is on the wrong track, Die Presse criticises:

“Setting a speed limit of 140 km/h on highways won't solve a single problem modern drivers face. It won't make driving any safer or less expensive. Certainly, at least in theory it might shorten car journeys, but that's just the point. This is supposed to be about driving faster, but it stresses the wrong attitude: that of the speeders and tailgaters. It appeals to the temperamental Mustang driver who insults the mother driving in front of him because she neither speeds through a yellow light nor turns, the driver who races hits 80 in a 30 km/h zone just to show what he can do. 140 km/h is perfect for the speeder in the leased Audi who drives so close to the car in front of him that he can look the dog in the back of the station wagon straight in the eye.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Other countries watching closely

Le Quotidien believes that the measures in France will show the way for other countries and points to how successful the lowering of the speed limit on the A31 between France and Luxembourg has been:

“The automatic radars placed along the A31 are there to slow down the most dogged speeders. Of course there are still accidents on the A31, but they're far less tragic than they were before. The decision to lower the speed limit from 90 to 80 km/h on two-lane motorways in France was taken when the drop in the number of fatalities started to plateau. The radars stopped having a deterrent effect, so a more dramatic measure was needed to protect lives. No doubt the countries of Europe - including Luxembourg - will be keeping a close eye on the results.”