Berlin / Goslar (dpa) - It is a long-running issue of traffic policy, for which the reflexes worked reliably for a long time: Whenever there was a call for a speed limit on German motorways, the ADAC has given an equally loud no in the past decades.
The largest motorists' club with over 21 million members was something of a bulwark against attacks on the proverbial free journey for free citizens.
And now? In view of the debate about more climate protection in transport, the ADAC is moving away from its strict rejection - and is promoting new comprehensive investigations to resolve the conflict. Does the stimulus issue come out of the cul-de-sac?
For the ADAC, the surprising step is initially also a kind of inner peace. Because the internal mood is no longer as clear as it used to be. "The discussion is emotional and polarizes among the members," said Vice President Traffic, Gerhard Hillebrand. "Like society as a whole, they are divided into supporters and opponents of the speed limit."
In a separate poll among members, 50 percent voted against, but also 45 percent voted for it. A turnaround to an ADAC yes does not mean that either. Rather, this results in a "neutral position" of the association, one decides on the question "not currently".
Shortly before the 58th traffic judges' day in Goslar (29 to 31 January), this is nevertheless a remarkable signal. One focus there: aggressiveness on the streets. Speed limit supporters are trying to use the momentum. The Federation for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND) speaks of a first step in the right direction. But a real change of heart can only be said if the advantages of a speed limit are openly presented.
The SPD, which had raised the issue again at the turn of the year - sees itself as encouraged - and, as it is stated, wants to push through as an additional project that is yet to be tackled with the Union. "We are in a debate that does not really want to end," said a spokesman for SPD Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. And from the point of view of the head of the department, that was “very good”. The movement of the ADAC did not make an impression on Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) for the time being. A spokesman confirms the negative attitude and emphasizes that intelligent traffic control is essential.
So it's not that fast. Although the ADAC is no longer fundamentally against a speed limit, it first campaigns for an objectification of the debate. The effects of a limit should be clarified in a comprehensive study that goes beyond pilot routes. Vice President Hillebrand argues that would provide a reliable basis for decision-making.
There are already analyzes. An investigation in Brandenburg came to the conclusion that restrictions on speeds of 130 or 120 led to fewer accidents - it dates from 2007. The Federal Highway Research Institute found that the average speed on the motorways between 2010 and 2014 was around 117 kilometers per hour was.
In any case, supporters and opponents position themselves before the traffic court. The German Road Safety Council refers to countries with speed limits. Anyone who travels on motorways in France, Austria or Belgium will experience more serenity than here. As soon as you get back on German motorways, the difference is noticeable, according to the Auto Club Europa ACE.
The head of accident research at the insurance company, Siegfried Brockmann, explains: "Homogeneous speed and thus a steady flow of traffic tends to result in fewer acceleration and braking maneuvers." However, there was a lack of reliable data for the assumption that a speed limit actually resulted in fewer fatalities. This can only be clarified by a large-scale experiment, says Brockmann.
The German Automobile Club (AvD), however, is strictly against a speed limit. Motorways are the safest road category, says spokesman Herbert Engelmohr. In addition, the 13,000 km long motorways made up only two percent of the German road network. Since it seems plausible that the introduction of a general speed limit on such a small part should have a relevant effect on CO2 emissions and for climate protection. Therefore, drivers should still be allowed to drive at a higher speed on a free highway in good weather conditions.
The majority of motorways still have a clear road. 70 percent of the network is without a speed limit. There are permanent or temporary restrictions with signs on 20.8 percent of the network, as data from the Federal Highway Research Institute for 2015 show - the most common are Tempo 120 (7.8 percent) and Tempo 100 (5.6 percent). There are also variable traffic control displays.
Irrespective of this, a recommended guideline speed of 130 has been in place for more than 40 years. If you look at an EU map, Germany is a “blank space” - everywhere else there are speed limits according to an ADAC overview.
Brandenburg study on speed limit
Federal Highway Research study on average speed