EUROPA AND GERMAN HIGHWAYS AND FREEWAYS
These motorways are officially named Bundesautobahn (BAB), as they were built and maintained by the federal government. In the 1920s and 1930s, the official name was Reichsautobahn.
| Similar to such motorways in other countries, autobahns have multiple lanes of traffic in each direction, separated by a central barrier with grade-separated junctions and access restricted to motor vehicles with a top speed of more than 60 km/h 37 mph.
The earliest carriageways were flanked by shoulders about 60 centimetres 24 in width, constructed of varying materials; right-hand shoulders on many autobahns were later retrofitted to 120 centimetres (47 in) in width when it was realised cars needed the additional space to pull off the autobahn safely. In the postwar years, a thicker asphaltic concrete cross-section with full paved hard shoulders came into general use.
| The top design speed was approximately 160 km/h (99 mph) in flat country but lower design speeds could be used in hilly or mountainous terrain. A flat-country autobahn, which was constructed to meet standards during the Nazi period, could support the speed of up to 150 km/h (93 mph) on curves.
The current autobahn numbering system in use in Germany was introduced in 1974. All autobahns are named by using the capital letter A, which simply stands for "Autobahn" followed by a blank and a number for example A 8. The main autobahns going all across Germany have a single digit number. Shorter autobahns that are of regional importance e.g. connecting two major cities or regions within Germany have a double digit number e.g. A 24, connecting Berlin and Hamburg. The system is as follows:
| A 10 to A 19 are in eastern Germany (Berlin, Saxony-Anhalt, parts of Saxony and Brandenburg)
A 20 to A 29 are in northern and northeastern Germany
A 30 to A 39 are in Lower Saxony (northwestern Germany)
A 40 to A 49 are in the Rhine-Ruhr Area
A 50 to A 59 are also in the Rhine-Ruhr Area
A 60 to A 69 are in Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland and Hesse
A 70 to A 79 are in Thuringia, northern Bavaria and parts of Saxony
A 80 to A 89 are in Baden-Württemberg
A 90 to A 99 are in (southern) Bavaria
There are also very short autobahns built just for local traffic e.g. ring roads or the A 555 from Cologne to Bonn, that usually have three digits for numbering. The first one of which is similar to the system above, depending on the region. East-west routes are always even-numbered, north-south routes are always odd-numbered.
The north-south autobahns are generally numbered using odd numbers from west to east; that is to say, the more easterly roads are given higher numbers. Similarly, the east-west routes are numbered using even numbers from north lower numbers to south higher numbers.
The idea for the construction of the autobahn was first conceived during the days of the Weimar Republic, but the construction was slow, and most projected sections did not progress much beyond the planning stage due to economic problems and a lack of political support. One project was the private initiative HaFraBa which planned a "car only road" crossing Germany from Hamburg in the North via central Frankfurt am Main to Basel in Switzerland.
|Just days after the 1933 Nazi takeover, Adolf Hitler enthusiastically embraced an ambitious autobahn construction project and appointed Fritz Todt the Inspector General of German Road Construction. By 1936, 130,000 workers were directly employed in construction, as well as an additional 270,000 in the supply chain for construction equipment, steel, concrete, signage, maintenance equipment, etc.
In rural areas new camps to house the workers were built near construction sites. The job creation program aspect was not especially important because full employment was almost reached by 1936. The autobahns were not primarily intended as major infrastructure improvement of special value to the military as often stated because they were of no military value as all major military transports in Germany were done by train to save fuel. The propaganda ministry turned them into a major media event that attracted international attention.
The autobahns formed the first limited-access, high-speed road network in the world, with the first section from Frankfurt am Main to Darmstadt opening in 1935. This straight section was used for high speed record attempts by the Grand Prix racing teams of Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union until a fatal accident involving popular German race driver Bernd Rosemeyer in early 1938. The world record of 432 km/h (268 mph) set by Rudolf Caracciola on this stretch just prior to the accident remains one of the highest speeds ever achieved on a public motorway.
Development of the overall length (at the end of):
| During World War II, the central reservation of some autobahns were paved to allow their conversion into auxiliary airports. Aircraft were either stashed in numerous tunnels or camouflaged in nearby woods. However, for the most part, the autobahns were not militarily significant. Motor vehicles could not carry goods as quickly or in as much bulk as trains could, and the autobahns could not be used by tanks as their weight and caterpillar tracks damaged the road surface.
The general shortage of gasoline in Germany during much of the war, as well as the low number of trucks and motor vehicles badly needed for direct support of military operations, further decreased the autobahn's significance. As a result, most military and economic freight was carried by rail.
|After the war, numerous sections of the autobahns were in bad shape, severely damaged by heavy Allied bombing and military demolition. Furthermore, thousands of kilometres of autobahns remained unfinished, their construction brought to a halt by 1943 due to the increasing demands of the war effort
| In West Germany, most existing autobahns were soon repaired after the war. During the 1950s, the West German government restarted the construction programme. It invested in new sections and in improvements to older ones. The finishing of the incomplete sections took longer, with some stretches opened to traffic in the 1980s.
Some sections cut by the Iron Curtain in 1945 were completed after German reunification in 1990. Some sections were never completed, as more advantageous routes were found. Some of these incomplete sections to this very day stretch across the landscape forming a unique type of modern ruin, often easily visible on satellite photographs
| The autobahns in East Germany (GDR) after 1945 were grossly neglected in comparison to those in West Germany and Western Europe in general They received minimal maintenance during the years of the Cold War and were left in a drastic state of disarray with numerous potholes, large to small cracks, and other major obstacles.
Most East German autobahns were used for GDR military traffic or for state owned farming or manufacturing vehicles. The speed limit on the GDR autobahns was 100 km/h; however, lower speed limits were frequently encountered due to poor or quickly changing road conditions.
The speed limits on the GDR autobahns were rigorously enforced by the Volkspolizei, whose patrol cars were frequently encountered hiding under camouflage tarps waiting for speeders. In the 1970s and 80s, the West German government paid millions to the GDR for construction and maintenance of the transit autobahns between West Germany and West Berlin, although there were indications that the GDR diverted some of the maintenance funds for other purposes
The first autobahn in Austria was the West Autobahn from Wals near Salzburg to Vienna. Building started by command of Adolf Hitler shortly after the Anschluss in 1938. It lengthened the Reichsautobahn 26 from Munich (the present-day Bundesautobahn , however only 16.8 km (10.4 mi) including the branch-off of the planned Tauern Autobahn had been opened to the public on 13 September 1941.Construction works discontinued the next year, they were not resumed until 1955.
There are sections of the former German Reichsautobahn system in the former eastern territories of Germany, i.e. East Prussia, Farther Pomerania and Silesia; these territories became parts of Poland and the Soviet Union with the implementation of the Oder–Neisse line after World War II. Parts of the planned autobahn from Berlin to Königsberg (the Berlinka) were completed up to Stettin (Szczecin) on 27 September 1936, after the war incorporated as the A6 autostrada of the Polish motorway network.
After the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, plans for a motorway connecting Breslau with Vienna via Brno (Brünn) in the "Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia" were carried out from 1939 until construction works discontinued in 1942. A section of the former Strecke 88 near Brno is today part of the R52 expressway of the Czech Republic.
Today, Germany's autobahn network has a total length of about 12,813 km.Most sections of Germany's autobahns are modern, containing two or three lanes in addition to an emergency lane hard shoulder. A few other sections remain in an old state, with two lanes, no emergency lane, and short slip-roads and ramps.
| A hard limit is imposed on some vehicles:
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, 120 km/h, or even 130 km/h; construction sites have a usual speed limit of 80 km/h but may be as low as 60 km/h, or in very rare cases, even 40 km/h. Certain stretches have separate, and lower, speed limits used in cases of wet lanes or in order to reduce noise pollution during overnight hours (usually 10pm – 6am) or in the opposite way, because of increased traffic during daytime a speed limit of 120 km/h from 6am - 8pm is used.
| In places without a general limit, there are mostly also no restrictions on overtaking (apart from the general prohibition of overtaking from the right side). Therefore, those traveling at high speeds may regularly encounter trucks running side-by-side at about just 90 km/h. In theory, trucks are not allowed to overtake others unless they drive 20 km/h faster than whomever they are overtaking, but truck drivers are generally under pressure to arrive in time; therefore, such laws are rarely enforced for economic and political reasons, especially since a lot of trucks are from other countries.
The right lane of an autobahn is often crowded with trucks. In some zones with only two lanes in both directions and no speed limit, but a special overtaking restriction for trucks and/or cars pulling trailers. Another German restriction says that trucks are usually not allowed to drive before 22:00 on Sundays and national holidays, except for trucks carrying perishable goods and certain other exceptions such as military vehicles
Some modern cars with a very powerful engine can reach speeds of well over 300 km/h (190 mph). Most large car manufacturers, especially the German ones, follow a gentlemen's agreement by electronically limiting the top speed of their cars with the exception of some top of the range models or engines to 250 km/h (155 mph) for safety reasons such as inexperienced drivers or risk of tire failure, especially when underinflated.
Vehicles unable to attain speeds in excess of 60 km/h are not allowed to use the autobahn. Though this limit is not really high for most modern vehicles, it prevents very small cars (e.g. quads) and motor-scooters (e.g. mopeds) 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). There is no general minimum speed but drivers are not allowed to drive unnecessarily slowly (under 80 km/h when there is no speed limit, for instance), because this would lead to significant traffic disturbance.
|According to the "Annual Road Safety Report 2011", produced by the International Transport Forum, the number of overall road fatalities had decreased by almost 70% between 1990 and 2010. While autobahns were not specifically mentioned in the report, motorway data is presented, with the fatality total between 1990 and 2010 decreasing from 1470 to 430 deaths. Excessive speed was cited as "a factor in more than 39% of fatal accidents and about 26% of serious injury accidents in 2010" and the relaunch of a motorway-based safety campaign, entitled "Runter vom Gas!" ("Down with speed!"), is also mentioned in the report
| Since the mid-1980s, after environmental issues had gained importance and recognition among lawmakers, interest groups and the general public, there has been an ongoing debate on whether or not a general speed limit should be imposed for all autobahns.
A car's fuel consumption increases with high speed, and fuel conservation is a key factor in reducing air pollution.Safety issues have been cited as well with regards to speed-related fatalities.Those opposed to a general speed limit maintain that such regulation is unnecessary because only two percent of the traffic in Germany runs on unlimited sections the heavily used autobahn sections in metro areas do have a speed limit. Additionally, better fuel economy, even at high speeds, has been achieved in most modern cars.
Moreover, international accident statistics demonstrate that limited access grade separated roads such as autobahns and motorways have much greater road traffic safety regardless of speed limit, suggesting that high speed alone isn't a deciding factor. Another reason is that German cars have a long heritage of being some of the safest in the world and that the high-speed image projected by German car makers is an important marketing tool.Therefore, Germany's powerful car lobby, including a representative from the Volkswagen company, is vehemently opposed to the authorization of an autobahn speed limit
In the discussion about such plans during his political term of office, the former Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder was against the introduction of a hard speed limit in the autobahn, which he justified by calling Germany an "Autofahrernation" a nation of drivers to point out the fact that a speed limit would not be regarded positively by the public. True enough, after various polls, it was made clear that the German public is to a large degree against a hard speed limit on the entire autobahn network.
On 1 January 2005, a new system came into effect for mandatory tolls Mautpflicht on heavy trucks those weighing more than 12 t while using the German autobahn system. The German government contracted with a private company, Toll Collect GmbH, to operate the toll collection system, which has involved the use of vehicle mounted transponders and roadway-mounted sensors installed throughout Germany.
The German autobahn network is patrolled by unmarked police cars and motorcycles equipped with video cameras; this allows the enforcement of laws such as tailgating. Notable laws include the following.
Forcing slow drivers on the left-hand lane to change lane (even if they are occupying it illegally), for example by flashing or tailgating, could be considered coercion and is best avoided.
Overtaking on the right undertaking is strictly forbidden, except when stuck in traffic jams. Up to a speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) it is permitted to pass cars on the right side if the speed difference is not greater than 20 km/h ,12 mph or the vehicle on the left lane is stationary. This is not referred to as overtaking, but driving past. Even if the car overtaken is illegally occupying the left-hand lane, it is not an acceptable excuse; in such cases the police will routinely stop and fine both drivers. However, exceptions are and have sometimes been made.
|In a traffic jam, drivers must form an emergency lane to allow emergency services to reach an accident scene. This "lane" is the middle of the left two lanes.
It is unlawful to stop for any reason on the autobahn, except for emergencies and when unavoidable, like traffic jams or being involved in an accident. This includes stopping on emergency lanes. Running out of fuel is considered an avoidable occurrence, as by law there are petrol stations directly on the autobahn approximately every 50–55 km 31–34 mi.
Drivers may face fines and a driving licence removal for up to 6 months should it come to a stop that was deemed unnecessary by the police. In some cases if there is direct danger to life and limb or property e.g. cars and highway infrastructure it may also be considered a crime and the driver could receive a prison sentence up to 5 years.
There is a general duty to rescue in Germany. If there is an accident, a driver is obliged to stop and help, whenever and to the degree to which it is possible. Doctors, even if they are not Germans or living in Germany, are obliged to stop and help, unless an ambulance is already on the scene.
|First aid training is mandatory in order to obtain a driving licence in Germany.
Fines for tailgating were increased in May 2006. At speeds over 100 km/h 62 mph, keeping less than 30 percent of the recommended safety distance which should be about 100 metres, and longer at higher speeds now results in a suspension of the offender's driving licence for up to three months. As such, overtaking on the right side or on the emergency lane can't be fined as hard as tailgating. Foreign drivers may be fined on the spot, their foreign licences confiscated although not as frequent as German licences and rental car agreements may be immediately cancelled the renter also loses all insurance and has to come up with all liabilities.
|Due to legal regulations Straßenverkehrsordnung it is legal to flash headlights Lichthupe in order to indicate the intention of overtaking, but a proper distance to the vehicle in front must be maintained.
Driving at insufficient distances and constantly or repeatedly flashing headlights are also considered to be coercion and the driver can get fined. In severe cases, this might be regarded as a crime and the driver may be arrested and face a court trial where they can be sentenced to up to three years in prison.
The tires must be approved for the vehicle's top speed; winter tires (mud + snow) for lower speeds (i.e. cheaper than high-speed tyres) are allowed, but the driver must have a sticker in the vehicle reminding of the maximum speed.
|During the winter months winter tires are compulsory. M+S tires mud and snow or all-season are acceptable. Non-compliance would lead to legal consequences in the event of an accident and will result in problems with insurance coverage. During the winter months, or whenever winter conditions are present, rental companies in Germany are required to equip their rental cars with winter tires specifically designed for each vehicle although the cost of that can be transferred to the renter, on a daily rate.