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Extract from about German Autobahns

Speed Limits
A hard limit is imposed on some vehicles:
60 km/h (37 mph)

* Buses carrying standing passengers
* Motorcycles pulling trailers

80 km/h (50 mph)

* Vehicles with maximum allowed weight exceeding 3.5 t (except passenger cars)
* Passenger cars and trucks with trailers
* Buses

100 km/h (62 mph)

* Passenger cars pulling trailers certified for 100 km/h
* Buses certified for 100 km/h not pulling trailers

The "limits no longer apply" sign, lifting speed limits - except general ones, for example for trucks - and "no pass" limits
The "limits no longer apply" sign, lifting speed limits - except general ones, for example for trucks - and "no pass" limits

The German autobahns are famous for being some of the few public roads in the world without blanket speed limits for cars and motorcycles. Lack of blanket speed limits does not appear to negatively impact the road safety of autobahns compared with motorways in other countries; motorways are safer than other road types. Perhaps this is due in part because traffic can be heavy enough to restrict speeds to little above the typical motorway speeds found elsewhere. Certainly, speed limits do apply at junctions and other danger points, like sections under construction or in need of repair. Speed limits at non-construction sites are generally 100 km/h (62 mph), 120 km/h (75 mph), or sometimes even 130 km/h (81 mph); construction sites have a usual speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph) but may be as low as 60 km/h (37 mph) or even 40 km/h (25 mph). Certain stretches have separate, and lower, speed limits used in cases of wet lanes.

Some limits were imposed to reduce pollution and noise. Limits can also be put into place temporarily through dynamic traffic guidance systems that display the according traffic signs. If there is no speed limit, the recommended speed limit is 130 km/h (81 mph), referred to in German as the Richtgeschwindigkeit; this speed is not a binding limit, but being involved in an accident at higher speeds can lead to being deemed at least partially responsible due to "increased operating danger" (Erhöhte Betriebsgefahr). The average rate of speed traveled on the autobahn in unregulated areas by automobiles not regulated by other laws is about 150 km/h (93 mph). On average, about half of the total length of the German autobahn network has no speed limit, about one third has a permanent limit, and the remaining parts have a temporary limit for a number of reasons.

In places without a general limit, there are mostly also no restrictions on overtaking. Therefore, those traveling at high speeds may regularily encounter trucks running side-by-side at only about 80 km/h (50 mph). In theory, trucks are not allowed to overtake others unless they drive 20 km/h (12 mph) faster than whomever they are overtaking, but truck drivers are generally under pressure to arrive in time, and such laws are rarely enforced for economic and political reasons, as many trucks are from foreign countries. The right lane of a typical autobahn is often crowded with trucks, and too often, trucks pull out to overtake. Due to size and speed this is often referred to as 'Elefantenrennen' (Elephant Race). In some zones with only two lanes in both directions there is no speed limit, but a special overtaking restriction for trucks and/or cars pulling trailers. (An exception is Sundays, on which trucks usually are not allowed to drive, except for trucks with perishable goods and certain other exceptions.)

Modern cars easily reach well over 200 km/h (124 mph), and most large car manufacturers follow a gentlemen's agreement by artificially limiting the top speed of their cars to 250 km/h (155 mph) for safety reasons (inexperienced drivers and risk of tires failing, especially when underinflated). Yet, these limiters can easily be defeated, so speeds over 300 km/h (186 mph) are not uncommon. But due to common speed limits and other traffic, such speeds are rarely attainable. Most unlimited sections of the autobahn are located outside of urban and densely populated areas. The A 8 between Stuttgart and Munich is one such example, the A4 between the metropolitan area of Chemnitz-Zwickau and Dresden as well.

Vehicles unable to attain speeds in excess of 60 km/h (37 mph) are not allowed to use the autobahn. Though this limit is not high for most modern vehicles, it prevents very small cars (e.g. Quads) and motor-scooters (e.g. Mofas) from using autobahns. To comply with this limit, several heavy-duty trucks in Germany (e.g. for carrying tanks or cranes) have a design speed of 62 km/h (usually denoted by a round black-on-white sign with "62" on it).

The overall safety record of autobahns is comparable to other European motorways and motorways are safer than other road types. A 2005 study by the Federal Minister of the Interior indicated there were an equal number of accidents per mile on the autobahn in sections without any speed limits.