Speeding Past Speed Limits
The need for speed appears to be hardwired into our systems with contributors all around the world chasing more power and higher speeds in our quest to get our blood and our cars revving. However, even the most powerful cars are hampered by the ubiquitous obstacle: the speed limit. The first country in the world to set speed limits was the UK in 1865 where vehicles were limited to 10mph (a whopping 16km/h) which was further reduced to 4mph in rural areas and 2mph in towns (6.5km/h and 3.2km/h respectively). Yet, have you ever wondered how speed limits around the world compare to one another? Let’s have a look.
As can be seen from the map above, speed limits range from as low as 70km/h to the famous German Autobahns where about half of the 13,000km of road only have a recommended speed (i.e. 130km/h) and a minimum speed limit (i.e. 60km/h). Interestingly, the Autobahns were created specifically for safe speeding with roads being thicker than typical highways and with limited inclines, making them ideal for fast driving. However, if you plan to take your car out for a spin on the Autobahn, take note of certain general rules or you’ll be pulled over by the Autobahnpolizei, the Autobahns’ dedicated police force trained specially to chase down high speed perpetrators.
Only one other area in the world has no speed limits, the Isle of Man. This island, located in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, hosts the world’s most dangerous motorbike race, the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy), a race along the island’s winding 37-mile circuit of public roads, called the Mountain Course. This harkened back to a 1904 decision by the then-governer to use the public roads for racing. However, its lack of motorways and twists and turns might turn some people off.
There continues to be a strong debate between support and opposition for speed limits. Detractors cite Germany’s traffic-related fatalities which according to the World Health Organization 2007 report was 6 deaths per 100,000 people, which was comparable to neighbouring countries despite the lack of speed limits. However, supporters for speed limits cite a potential reduction in carbon emissions and traffic-related safety issues. Still, the debate rages on and looks set to continue as long as there are cars.