Autobahn: the history of German autobahns without speed limits

When we talk about the maximum speed of a car, especially the most sporty ones, there is always a recurring argument that comes out from a certain part of the public: “why run so much if there is no place to do it.” It is true that the vast majority of roads are limited by the safety of drivers and that to “escape” from those rules you would have to go to a circuit. However, there is also the possibility of visiting the Autobahn Germans with no speed limit for this purpose.

History of the Autobahn

The first thing to do is disambiguate the term Autobahn. It is a generic word in German that refers to roads, more specifically to highways (although officially they are known as Bundesautobahn). But that does not mean that all expressways in Germany lack speed limits (around 65%). The Autobahn network is one of the largest in Europe and the world, as it is made up of more than 13,000 kilometers of road to connect the entire country.

The origin of its history starts in the 1920s with the Weimar Republic. Although the project that pushed it was the private initiative HaFraBa, which planned a car-only road that would cross Germany from Hamburg, passing through Frankfurt, to Basel (Switzerland). This construction stopped by World War II, although during the Nazi mandate a major expansion of transportation had been prepared. That was the idea of ​​Fritz Todt, appointed by Hitler as Inspector General of Road Construction in Germany.

About 3,800 kilometers of Autobahn could be completed, a small part of the almost 20,000 kilometers that had been planned originally. In the postwar period, the two Germanys (West and East) They went their separate ways. The roads were repaired as much as possible, always being a little more neglected in the eastern part. In the more European area, some incomplete sections were completed. With the unification and improvement of conditions in Germany, the road network was improved until it had one of the best structured.

Where are the Autobahns without speed limits?

The Autobahn They don’t have a speed limit required by the federal government for some types of vehicles (passenger cars among them), although this occurs in designated sections. In urbanized areas, with an accumulation of accidents or where the road is in poor condition, well-marked limits are set. Besides, the general recommendation is not to exceed 130 km/h (Richtgeschwindigkeit). This means that you cannot be fined for going faster, but if you have an accident at a higher speed you could be held liable due to an “increased operational danger.”

So I can go racing like crazy on an Autobahn with no speed limit? Well in this case It’s more of a myth than a reality.. Germans are usually quite respectful and don’t cross the line when there is heavy traffic or bad weather conditions. High speeds are practically limited to the least busy sections that are outside the cities, at odd hours (from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) or on Sundays, which is when transporters rest by law.

Another notable thing about motorway traffic in Germany is that its drivers have a high level of civility and culture behind the wheel. That left lane syndrome that we see so much on our roads does not appear, they are more aware that a much faster car could come from behind and they try not to hinder traffic. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that at high speeds it is necessary to leave a greater safety distance, anticipate braking and adjust reaction times. In Spain it would be difficult to adopt such a system.

In any case, it must be said that around a quarter of the entire road network, which is just over 13,000 kilometers, has its permanent speed limit and that temporary limitations also apply due to weather or traffic conditions. They have tried to measure the average speed on some roads and the result was about 140 km/h, so it travels considerably faster than in Spain, but without being crazy.

Responsibility on the Autobahn

Sometimes they arise doubts about responsibility in the event of an accident on an Autobahn or what the insurance would cover. As a general rule, any insurer in Germany (and in other countries) covers accidents and damages regardless of the speed at which the vehicle was driven. In these sections, as there is no speed limit, no law would be broken and there would be no problem. Although it could be considered negligence on the part of the driver if the speed is excessive.

This means that each case is different and that the accident would have to be analyzed, but that it could affect the insurance coverage if it is discovered that he was traveling at 300 km/h, the same thing that would happen if he did not maintain a safe safety distance. The ideal would be to respect the limits or stick to the recommendation not to exceed 130 km/h to increase safety and not have problems of any kind.

Controversy with the Autobahn

And although in Germany they have more social awareness and drive better, the sections without speed limits on the Autobahn they could have their days numbered. In recent times there have been some controversies about this. The first reason for limiting the entire network to 130 km/h by law (limitation, not just recommendation) would be to reduce CO2 and NOx emissions on their roads. A vote was taken, although the reception was not very positive

The second argument against the Autobahn without speed limit, which was reduce the number of accidents. This point also sparked quite a bit of controversy, since the vast majority of accidents happen off the highways. Concentrate around 6% of accidents, although a 12% of fatalities on the highway. Some news that comes out from time to time does not help either, such as the Bugatti Chiron traveling at 417 km/h, something that is not illegal, but that many Germans consider counterproductive for road safety.

In recent times there has been a reduction in the speed of cars on the Autobahn. On the one hand it affects the arrival of electric cars, which suffer on this type of roads due to their greater energy consumption and reduced autonomy. Also fuel prices, which makes users look more at efficiency. In any case, it seems that there is not so much running anymore and that the limitation to the entire German motorway network is in a period of standby.

Happy drivers

Client testimonials

Lisa D.


Theuth has completely changed how I follow automotive news. Relevant articles, thorough reviews, and an active community!

Hanna A.


I never miss a live show. It's like having front-row seats at every exhibition or race, but from my couch!

Andrew R.


As a novice in the world of motorbikes, Theuth's guides and analysis have been invaluable for my first purchase.

Ignite the drive, explore the ride