Featured Articles

Fear on the American Interstate; or The Autobahn is my Homeland

Posted in Cars, Fast Cars by Vito Rispo | July 17th, 2008 | 15 Responses |

or The Autobahn, The Interstate, and the 6 Foot 7 Inch Policeman, or Why the Autobahn is safer than the US Interstate, or The National Speed Limit is a Tool for Nazi Thugs

I was going to start my 5 part series on lunatic hypermilers and the decline of western civilization today, but I got pulled over on my way to work by a very tall and aggressive trooper, and now I’m writing about the poor state of the American highway system.

You know it and I know it, everyone goes over 65, the police need only to wade out into the pool of innocents and pluck 2 or 3 out a week and shake them down for cash; it’s so ingrained into our national conciousness that we don’t seem to think that’s odd. But honestly, think about it; what value does a law have if no one obeys it? It just makes a mockery of the country where the law exists. I’d be laughing right now if it weren’t for the jackbooted marauders prowling the highways at this very moment looking for poor innocent working men to harass and extort.

Federal speed limits were put in place during the oil crisis of the 70s, supposedly to save energy and money and be great for the economy and all that silly nonsense. The truth is there were unintended consequences of that law, as there always are. It cost this country billions of dollars a year in increased travel time and money wasted on tickets and court dates, an actual net decline in economy…but the worst thing that it created was the aura of fear around police. I don’t want to get scared everytime I see a cop on the highway, but I do, and I’m willing to bet you do too. There’s something very wrong when the general populace is afraid of their police. Make no mistake, at this point, speed limits in the US are a strong arm tactic for filling the county treasury.

After debunking the energy argument, the fear mongers will then tell you that the real issue is accidents. Horrible car wrecks with flying detached limbs and blood and gore and all that business. “Drive fast and you’ll get decapitated, young man”. There is this misconception in the US that speed automatically equals death, that your speedometer is a scale for how anti-social you are. Anyone over 80 mph is a bad bad man.

The truth is that the German Autobahn (the place with no speed limits) is actually safer than the US interstate. For every billion kilometers of American interstate road, there are 5.1 fatalities; on the Autobahn, that number is 3.7.

The Reason?

The Rechtsfahren – aka the “Drive Right” law.

That’s the only real traffic law you need to know about on the limitless parts of the Autobahn. The Rechtsfahren basically says: “Stay to the right, pass on the left, and if someone is faster than you, get out of their way”. That’s it.

And that’s why the Autobahn is safer than the interstate, because of the quality of the driving. We have uneducated drivers who don’t understand the concept of staying right, and who are constantly fearful of getting pulled over and robbed by men with guns. This is the situation in the United States.

Don’t get me wrong, I love America. It’s dangerous not to these days, you might get snatched away to Gitmo. But I honestly do love it, whats left of it.

Nevertheless, the Autobahn is my spiritual homeland, even though I’ve never been there. It’s the Israel for driving fans. One day I’ll be able to go out to a little shack out in the countryside next to A95 and live my life in peace with only one rule:

Drive Right, pass on the left.


You have to remember that no matter what the high school driving manual tells you, driving is a right, not a privilege. For something to be a privilege, that means it has to be given to you. Aside from the obvious killing and stealing and otherwise breaking the law, the government doesn’t tell me what I can and cannot do. The government didn’t give me a car. I bought my car, I paid for it myself, it belongs to me and it’s my right to drive that car. Driving is no more a privilege than jumping or walking or riding a bike is. You are not a slave. Do not be afraid.

Our Best Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

15 Responses

  1. Automobile Friend says:

    He, don’t insult with words like ‘Nazi thugs’.

    I’m German.

  2. Brad says:

    I agree with you and I know MANY people are avid about drive right, pass left.

    I wish more places adhered to it. It is ever so annoying that a car will do less than the speed limit in the passing lane and that is perfectly fine, but if you pass them on the inside in the non-passing lane its against the law.

    It certainly is not enforced around here and I agree with your assessments. People drive like IDIOTS here and that is why there are so many accidents, not because of speeds.

  3. Uwe says:

    Entschuldigung Automobile,
    Vito was merely saying that policeman in the US are Nazi Thugs, that we Germans have it right

    -endes gut alles gut

  4. Biker Jon says:

    I’ve ridden on the Autobahn, and I’ve ridden all over the US. To this day, I still ride to the right and pass to the left. I felt safer on the Autobahn at 120 mph than any interstate at any speed. And if you think the cops are thugs when you speed in a car, ride a bike. I had one that grabbed my backpack and almost yanked me ant 400lbs of bike on top of himself.

  5. Chris says:

    Having driven a couple thousand kilometers at full speed (~150mph) on the autobahns I can confirm that European drivers are excellent (the aspect of excellency depends on the country) but the notion of removing the speed limit for Americans I find ridiculous, having driven much in the US as well.

    Europeans are very well trained, especially in theory. There’s much more to it than rechtsfahren, though I’m sure you realize that.

    The couple of times I’ve felt in danger on the autobahns was around Americans. One time some US Army fools from Oklahoma (they brought their V8 Chevy station wagon) were driving 80mph in the fast lane when I came around a corner. I made sure they were aware of my displeasure.

    One great European (or at least German) practice that everyone should adopt on the freeways is the immediate use of hazard lights when a hazard is seen on the road. The traffic slows VERY quickly.

  6. D says:

    I’m in the military and I lived in Germany for 5 years. I love the way there system works. I hardly ever see anyone on the side the road for breakdown. When I came back to the US, I was culture shocked when as far as driving. The people on the roads are terrible hazard. One guy had an OLD buick driving onto I295, just jump right out to the fast lane. I was almost sitting on my hood (or in his passenger seat) I had break so hard. American drivers have no discipline. Driving in America is like boxing in heavyweight match. First chance I get I’m back in Deutschland.

  7. RAK says:

    I totally agree with the original post that speed-limit enforcement in America is a money-making scheme and has nothing to do with safety. If the police were concerned about safety on the road, they would ticket people who drive aggressively, tailgate, block the left lane, do not use turn signals or pass on the right.

    Interestingly, the traffic rules in Germany and in most U.S. states are very similar: no talking on cell phones, left lane for passing only, no tailgating, no passing on the right. The problem is that, unlike in Germany, nobody in America is enforcing this.

    The Autobahn is a living example that fast driving can be perfectly safe, as long as it is done by well trained, polite, defensive drivers, driving decent cars. As someone who has had a German driver’s license since my college days, I can say this with full confidence. 20 years later, I am in Germany a lot and I drive there a lot. From experience, I feel safer at 130 mph on an Autobahn than at 70 mph on an American interstate highway, because I am surrounded by polite, defensive, well-trained drivers.

    For those who have not driven in Germany, here are a few clarifications:
    1.- A great deal of the Autobahn system does have a speed limit (usually 80 mph), around large cities and near large interchanges.
    2.- On just about every segment of the Autobahn, speed limits can be turned on and off during the day, depending on traffic and weather conditions.
    3.- Much of the Autobahn system can be very overcrowded during the work week. It is not uncommon to experience the thrill of driving a 160-mph BMW at 40 mph most of the day, simply because of traffic.
    4.- Trucks and busses have a 80 kmh speed limit (~55 mph). This limits them to the right-hand lane and greatly improves traffic flow. You will never have a tractor-trailer stuck in the left lane for miles and miles, while passing another tractor-trailer who is only going 2 mph slower.
    5.- The road itself is usually very good, much better than the majority of American interstates. There is no debris (no sofas, stoves or beer cans fallen off pickup trucks). Very seldom does one see tire fragments. If there are, it is usually broadcasted on the next traffic report.
    6.- Traffic reports are frequent and broadcasted on all radio stations. European car radios have for decades had a feature that will switch to a station broadcasting a traffic report, even if you are listening to another station or to a CD. Locations of speed cameras (speed traps) are typically broadcasted along with traffic.
    7.- Services along Autobahns are a class above American interstates. Every service station will have a bistro or a sit-down restaurant, good selection of hot food and gourmet sandwiches, gift shop, and above all very clean toilets. Go to a restroom on I-10 between Baton Rouge and Houston and you are risking you will catch some infectious disease!

    Traveling on the Autobahn is a joy, a pleasant and relaxing experience. Driving on American interstates is a dreadful experience.

  8. Michael Tinsley says:

    Germany has more limited access (interstate) highway than any other European country and this in a country the size of Montana.
    In Germany you’re either on the autobahn or on a city street.
    Also not mentioned, Germans drive the same way whether its a clear sunny day or fogged in with zero visibility which leads to _spectacular multiple-car crashes with multiple fatalities.
    I was a medic in the US Army stationed in Germany for three years and went to _many 30-plus car accidents.
    I will say that passing on the left works well there because if you don’t merge right when you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror you _will be run over.

  9. Joseph Medina says:

    I recently moved to Florida from Boston and boy do Floridians not know how to drive, most pass on the right which is wicked weird because where im from everyone passes on the left and stays clear of the exit lanes. In Miami ive seen people speed by others in the exit lane than cut back to the middle. They should learn to drive, oh and they need to use their blinkers ” turn signals”… Florida Drivers suck!!

  10. bill says:

    i certainly agree with the author. in greece our speed limits in the highways are currently 130km/h and yet they are considered too low in the new highways. i mean we are talking about excellent, 2×2 separated highways. most people drive at 140+km/h and still we have practically no accidents in these highways. accidents do occur however in non-separated roads.
    so what do i think? you guys in america have excellent highways. and huge engines. and you are a big country with long distances. ridiculous speed limits will simply drive you mad, not make the streets any safer.

  11. Joe Shmoe says:

    You all are silly. You should take others into account too. The author hasn’t even had experience on the autobahn either! Not everyone drives the way you do! And just because you don’t like the highways does not mean you should be insulting Americans. Just be thankful that you’re one of the 8% of people in the world who owns a car and has the option to drive to work everyday instead of having to walk through bad weather!

  12. midwest_scott says:

    i have lived in kentucky for the last 15 years and since being here i have seen some of the worst driving habits a community can teach…no one uses turn signals, no one flashes the brake lamps, no one is considerate of the other driver. yet, the police tell me that i am a hazard riding my race-replica motorcycle (ie, sport bike), which is built for high speeds, while doing 45mph in a 35mph zone. well, what about the ass that just slammed on his brakes and turned left in front of me? did he brake the law? not if your an idiot from kentucky!! they dont even have driver’s education here!! none of the adults i work with were ever educated on HOW to drive, they get their experience on one lane backroads and watch Nascar on sundays. these officers are just part of the problem along with the rest of our government. i pay my taxes (or at least most of them) and they need to leave me alone.

  13. German born Driver says:

    Yes, what the h… is wrong with people in the US? Driving on the Interstate here is driving me to drink. People do not seem to either know or understand driving laws. Who in their right mind would go 40 or 45 mph on the far left lane on the Interstate? You cause more accidents this way! Where is the police when you need them? The scary thing is that the people doing this are not teenagers or retired folks. They are people between 30-50. Good Lord!! Who gave your your driver’s license? Someone should do something about this officially!!!

    • Kurt says:

      Amen, German born driver, amen. In ninety percent of the cases, you’ll find a cell phone glued to the offending driver’s ear, but we do nothing to enforce cell phone bans.

      Try driving in Florida, where residents equate wet roads with the same traction you’d have on snow over black ice. If you can’t take a corner faster than 10 miles per hour when the road is wet, perhaps you shouldn’t be driving.

  14. Don’t think the autobahn in Germany is 81 mph, they’re are at mach 185 plus an hour and ya better stay out of the left lane, wing-wangs!!