Article and photos by James Bergeron
What exactly is “The Autobahn”?
Neckarsulm, Germany – Canada, a country with a vast amount of land and seemingly endless stretches of straight highway. Most anyone in Ontario knows the drill: cruising down the 401 corridor on an open highway with no traffic, sheepishly cruising at 118 km/h to avoid our version of the Gestapo that are at their ready to impound your car and fine you $10,000 for the ultimate sin of speeding.
Driving a Supercar on the Autobahn. Click image to enlarge
Other provinces are little more liberal but speed limits are not any more lenient; Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Alberta have highways with limits as high as 110 km/h. But when the speeds get higher the police may no longer offer that “20 km/h” buffer. Get caught with your foot down a little too hard and not only could you be paying a fine, your insurance premiums could be painful for years to come.
Enter “The Autobahn” – a series of highways that traverse Germany that are famous for having no speed limits, a place where speed and thrill seekers from around the world come to fulfill their need – but it really isn’t that simple.
Autobahn is simply the word used to describe national highways in Germany, it is equivalent to our four-series highways in Ontario or Interstates in the USA. So there is no “The Autobahn” as many of us, including myself, refer to the ultimate in guilty pleasure roadways. Take a look at an online road map of Germany – any highway marked with the letter “A” is an Autobahn, where as “B” highways are similar to our country roads or smaller two-lane highways.
It also is not as simple as “they can drive at unlimited speeds!” There are many rules to the roads just like here in Canada. It isn’t an all out gong show of cars traveling at insane rates of speed. For the most part around towns and cities Autobahns are limited to 100 or 120 km/h; then there are some sections limited at certain times of the day for noise reasons (10 pm – 6 am); there are sections limited because of many off- and on-ramps; and there are also areas that are controlled by electronic billboards displaying the current speed limit.
However, in more isolated areas the speed limits are a “recommended” 130 km/h with no hard restriction – but that does not necessarily mean you’ll be cruising with the pedal down to the floor.
What the locals say
In my effort to do a little research I spoke to some locals about the traffic situation on the Autobahns and was surprised to hear many of the same complaints that are common in Canada.
Drivers busy on cellphones (despite a hands-free law), drivers simply not paying attention and silliness like rubber-necking at accidents and slowing down considerably when approaching a hill… as if the road will just stop when they get to the top.