Autobahn safety vs. interstate safety

Written by erin dorrance
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Autobahn safety vs. interstate safety
Germany's autobahn is famous for its high speeds and glowing safety statistics. (Autobahn image by Mark David from Fotolia.com)

Traffic zooms by on the German autobahn at 120mph. The speed-limitless highway system stretches 6,800 miles and the Federal Ministry of Transport has declared the autobahn to be one of the safest road systems in the world despite the roaring, high speeds. US highways, on the other hand, rank as one of the most dangerous where speed limits range from 55 to 75mph. Strict laws are believed to be the prominent reason the autobahn is safer than US highways.

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Speed

The majority of the autobahn does not have a speed limit, but in certain areas there are speed limits due to construction, unsafe driving conditions or noise protection for urban areas, according to the "Autobahn Survival Guide." U.S. highways have speed limit postings along every mile of its highways that also may vary in certain zones and areas.

Police

American drivers anticipate law enforcement to set speed traps around curves and under overpasses. In Germany, the Autobahn Survival Guide states that it is very rare to be pulled over by police for speeding, instead a camera takes a photograph of your vehicle and you receive a ticket in the mail. These sleek cameras are almost impossible to spot, especially given the high speeds travelled, which enforces speed limit laws in speed-controlled zones on the autobahn.

Laws

Drivers follow strict autobahn laws. Laws prohibit stopping on the autobahn. Regardless if children are misbehaving, a pair of sunglasses flew out the window or if a vehicle runs out of gas, there is no excuse to stop as these are considered avoidable circumstances.

All German vehicles must be equipped with a reflective vest, a warning triangle and a self-aid kit, according to Destination 360: Germany. If an accident disables your vehicle, you are required to put on your vest, place a warning triangle about 600 feet behind your vehicle and contact the authorities. In the US there is no law stating that vehicles must carry these objects.

Driving Age

Germans take driving seriously and consider it a privilege. It is a big undertaking to receive a driver’s license in Germany. All Travel Germany.com states that the minimum driving age in Germany is 17. It costs over £1,300 for a license after an extensive 25 to 45 hours of professional instruction and 12 hours of theory. On the other side of the pond, a 15-year-old in New Mexico can receive a learner’s permit and enrol in a free driver’s education program through a local school, according to the State of New Mexico website. Most states require drivers to be 16 years old before they can sit behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Maintenance

The Germany Way & More website states that it is rare to see a “junker” car in Germany. Germans take great pride of ownership and neatness. The country also has very strict laws as to which vehicles may pass a comprehensive inspection and be cleared safe for the autobahn. A single rust spot, a dent in a critical location, a burnt-out headlight or a small chip in the windshield are reasons for rejection. In the U.S., vehicle inspections vary by state, but it is very common for the owner of a 150,000-mile vehicle with rust to have no issues passing the inspection as long as the vehicle adheres to state rules and regulations.

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