Do EU states need speed limits?
Speed limit reductions are under discussion in many countries, also in connection with the question of whether they can facilitate compliance with EU climate protection agreements. While Berlin has rejected a general speed limit, France and Spain have already lowered their limits on country roads. Commentators explain why the Germans are so unwilling to take their feet off the gas.
Flexible rules instead of rigid limits
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung doubts that a general speed limit would make a significant contribution to climate protection:
“According to a study by the Federal Highway Research Institute, total CO2 emissions in Germany would only fall by 0.27 percent with a general speed limit of 120 km/h. A 130 km/h speed limit would have no effect. So nothing would be gained with a fixed limit, it would just mean another piece of freedom is curtailed. ... Far more useful would be flexible controls that take into account specific traffic and weather conditions and adjust the maximum speed depending on the situation. Rigid limits imposing a uniform maximum speed on all situations are simply not compatible with a modern transport system. And we should oppose the excitement about introducing bans on principle.”
Freedom on the Autobahn is sacred
The car and the freedoms associated with it occupy a special place in the German psyche, believes the Financial Times:
“In a society often judged to be highly ordered, the freedom to push the needle past 200km/h is something of a release, a pressure valve. More broadly, 'das Auto' is both a source of pride - a manifestation of the engineering prowess that has powered economic success - and a means of personal expression. Traffic reports on morning radio are delivered with the solemnity of a call to prayers. Mention that you need to leave work early to get your car from the garage and you will be met with the sympathy that might greet news of a sickly child.”
Burdensome but life-saving
In response to complaints by yellow vest protesters and other critics, French Prime Minister Philippe has announced that the speed-limit reduction on two-lane motorways to 80 km/h in France would be repealed in part. The decision to implement the measure or not will be up to each French department. But there's no saying the country will return en masse to 90 km/h, RTL columnist Alba Ventura believes:
“Philippe didn't take the measure out of his hat just to get on people's nerves, but because he really cares about the topic. The problem is that - as usual - he's doing it from above. ... I'm not so sure that the departments will all return to 90 km/h. In any event not in the most dangerous zones and not after the encouraging results. Because they'll bear the responsibility. As we know the obituaries are often the first thing people read in the papers.”
Election calculation more imporant than lives
A 90 km/h speed limit on many country roads entered into force in Spain on Tuesday, replacing the previous 100 km/h limit. El Periódico de Catalunya is annoyed that this change in the law was allowed to gather dust on a shelf for so long under the previous, conservative government:
“More than 900 people died on country roads in 2018, most of them as a consequence of speeding. The PP government, however, deemed that imposing this limit would compromise its chances in the elections because it was an unpopular measure. Eight years after the law was drafted and almost 40 years after the 100 km/h speed limit was stipulated, Spain has introduced a measure recommended by experts and already implemented in half of Europe. Now it must be enforced with the help of more speed cameras and increased controls.”