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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If Germany being smaller than the US and has an autobahn, why not in the US?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26829points) December 3rd, 2013

If Germany has use of an autobahn when locations are much closer why don’t the US have an autobahn? Would it not make trips from San Fran to Lake Tahoe, San Diego to Phoenix, Colorado to Fort Worth Tx, Oregon to Seattle, etc much quicker? Locations in the US are further apart and not everyone wants to fly. Why should there not be an autobahn here in the US?

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62 Answers

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, there are several long stretches of highway that could easily be set aside like that.

WestRiverrat's avatar

We do, it is called the interstate highway system, it was designed for traffic to flow at 80–90 mph in nonurban areas. Politics is the primary reason for the speed limits we have on the interstate system now.

johnpowell's avatar

Driving age is 18 in Germany and I would imagine most people don’t start driving until later in life.

And we all know how 16 year old kids drive.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Because it would cost money. The argument would be: We have the interstate system, why should we pay another xx billion dollars for a new highway that is only incrementally better?

It’s the same old tune… government is bad, government projects are bad, spending tax money on government projects is realllly bad.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^^ And we all know how 16 year old kids drive.
They would not be allowed to use the autobahn and if caught using it, they lose their license for 60 months.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Which US do you live in? If you live in the one with no freeways, interstates, superhighways, with unique little towns, people and accents along tow lane blacktops from sea to shining sea, please tell me how to get there? I’d love to tour America ca. 1945. Hell, I’d even move there.

josie's avatar

The reason is-The Government is really nervous about you and me having too much fun and freedom.
The reason for that is- If we have to much fun and freedom, we will start asking why we need the Government.

Judi's avatar

The autobahn is impeccably clean. You never see blown out tires, junky broken down cars or trash. Semi trucks are non existent. They INVEST in their infrastructure and protect their resourses. They REGULATE their logistics industries. The right would call these investments socialism and never allow it.

chyna's avatar

We do. I-64 in WV each and every morning.

JLeslie's avatar

Our Interstate system is fantastic! It is America’s autobahn. Sure parts of it are crumbling a little, but the overall layout and logic is pretty good. The autobahn has slight turns so the driver is less likely to get road hypnosis, but still done so that speeds can be maintained. Some parts of America the interstates go on straight forever. Mind numbing.

There are some parts of the Autobahn that have speed limits. German drivers go through more rigorous learning and testing when it comes to driving. They don’t drink, eat, or text while driving. Their speeds may not be as regulated, but they are much stricter on themselves and by the state to be focused on driving when driving. Americans are all sorts of distracted. Back when the interstates were being laid done in a huge way our American cars were nothing compared to German cars in terms of speed and handeling.

America has a history of controlling the speeds on all roads. During the 70’s they lowered the interstate speed limits drastically to save fuel. The government also does studies of accidents and deaths and tries to put safe limits.

So, I guess our speed limits are a mix of tradition, politics, and safety issues.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

It would require a wholesale shift in a large percentage of American’s driving mentality.

If I could enjoy Germany’s lane discipline in America I would be thrilled to death.

It would also require significant changes in law enforcement’s mentality.

America’s cops believe that speed alone is the factor in accidents when Germany’s statistics prove otherwise. (Why the hell is it that the moment I exceed the posted limit I don’t suddenly lose all control and die in a car b cue????)

Also, why don’t we have sophisticated police equipment to ensure proper distances are maintained like Germany does? Why? WTF???

Raising speed limits on the Interstate system would require complete revisions on limit free sections:

-Sign size would have to be increased in order to be readable at 200mph and above.

-The road infrastructure itself would need to be greatly improved as an expansion joint at 70 is one thing, it’s quite another matter at 160.

It would also require a level of order that many Americans simply aren’t prepared to observe:

If you’re crawling along the highway in your Prius at 40 in order to keep the freaking sacred ECON light on you had better be in the appropriate lane for such boorishness.

I could possibly be bearing down on you at greater than 100 mph.

JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Even on the autobahn very few people are driving over 100 mph. I think the suggested speed for no speed limit sections is around 80 mph, even though of course some people are driving much faster. We can ask a German jelly to be sure. I was in Germany so long ago I am no authority on the topic.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Let’s just be careful which German we ask.

JLeslie's avatar

I sent it to Mattbrowne who is German and has lived in the US.

Judi's avatar

The other day my husband ran over a mud flap that fell off a truck. A few years ago one of those blown out truck tires flew up right in front of me with all that steel in it. It was L.A., I-5 and there was a block walk to the left of me and a car to the right of me. I had no choice to run over it and I was driving a brand new Jag. If we had been going 90–100 I probably would have been killed. It still did thousands in damage and had to be towed.
I still go back to regulations being the key to the autobahn success. It’s against the law to run out of gas! You legally must maintain your car. The left lane is for passing only and they mean it. It’s almost as hard to get a drivers license there as it is to get a pilots license here.
In America Ronald Reagan made us believe all this “government IS the problem” bullshit.
If you want a well maintained first class freeway you have to reduce the size of the trucks you allow so you don’t destroy the roads. You need a world class rail system so you reduce the traffic on the roads by making mass transit attractive and affordable. You also need a government that actually works for the common good where legislators can spend more time legislating than fund raising, making promises to donors that conflict with the best interests of the citizens.
Rant over.

glacial's avatar

@Judi Hear, hear.

JLeslie's avatar

@Judi Good rant.

The new Jags are beautiful.

whitenoise's avatar

The reason you don’t have an Autobahn is because you don’t speak German.

If you wonder why you don’t have freeways… Ehhh?

If you wonder why there is a speed limit…. Environment and safety mean anything to you? Also in Germany speed limits are more and more common. They make sense.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central If by any chance your question is about you wanting to drive fast, look up the Porsche Club of America and find your local region. If they have autocrosses they most likely allow nonmembers to drive in them. They usually run $25—$35 and you can go as fast as you want on a track or sometimes they are done at airports. I think Corvette and BMW do it also.

ragingloli's avatar

Because of the inferiority of the american race.

whitenoise's avatar


Germans talking about inferior races always kind of spook me…

Brrr. P

rojo's avatar

Because, for all our talk of rugged individualism, we still want to protect others from themselves.

That and the fact that Europe has one and if we were to do it we would be copying them (and we don’t do anything unless we do it first) and putting ourselves on the unregulated road to Socialism.

Judi's avatar

If we can get guys like @Hypocrisy_Central and @josie to agree to infrastructure investments we might be able to jump start the economy!

mattbrowne's avatar

Autobahn is just the German word for the American freeway or interstate highway or British motorway. On average German autobahns are better compared to the US, because there are far more taxpayers per autobahn kilometer to be maintained. Germany is slightly smaller than Montana, but with 82 million people.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne Does Germany have toll roads? Or, are all the highways free to travel on?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Follow Route 66 to my town in Missouri, you’ll feel like it’s 1945…lol

Seriously though, I live off I-44 which is practically an autobahn, and you can go upwards of 90 or so (until you’re busted), not sure what difference it makes what you call it. And I believe I read an article saying that driving cross country is losing it’s cool retro-ness, with flights being so cheap in a lot of areas now.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@JLeslie @Hypocrisy_Central If by any chance your question is about you wanting to drive fast, look up the Porsche Club of America and find your local region.
I was not thinking about me driving fast; I hardly ever go over 65mph. I was thinking of the fact many Americans seem to live in their cars and use it for primary travel that they would want to get from point “A” to point “B” as quick as possible. Why buy a supped up car that the manufacturer says has 400hp and a top speed of 280mph if you never get to use it? Isn’t that like having cable service with 300 channels but you can only tune into 110 of them? Or having a Smart Phone you can download all the apps you want but you can only activate 23 to use on your phone at a time; you want to use more, you have to deactivate others?

@Judi If we can get guys like @Hypocrisy_Central and @josie to agree to infrastructure investments we might be able to jump start the economy!
What you don’t know is I do, I believe we should pour more money into our bridges, roadways—and not just the freeways, and beef up mass transit way more than it is. I am all for getting more people out of their cars for single-person trips; then getting them on their ”Flintstone horse” aka bicycle so they can spare the air, enjoy the scenery more, and get some health benefits to boot. I think the government here should spend more money on the infrastructure and less on junkets, gala, lavished extravaganzas, bloated paychecks, etc. But then I might be labeled a communist, liberal, rebel rouser or worse.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Most people who can afford Lambo’s and Ferrari’s can afford to rent track’s, but yeah, I’ve always wondered where they ‘blow out their engines’ outside tracks…lol

WestRiverrat's avatar

The German Autobahn was the model for the Interstate highway system, Eisenhower brought the idea back to the US after WW2, and implemented it when he became President.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

There’s so much more to a car that is satisfying to drive than top speed.

Quick yet predictable linear responses. A secure driving position beyond reproach. Solid mechanical feedback. Simple, functional controls and instrumentation…

If it doesn’t put a smile on your face at any velocity you bought the wrong car.


As is the case with other things in life, like dressing and eating, driving follows this rule:

If you must do it, why not wring as much enjoyment out of it as possible?

JLeslie's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central It’s true we usually don’t get to drive our fast cars fast in America. We have Porsches old and new and my husbandnis certified to instruct onbracetracts for club racing and he races, and he very rarely goes above 80 on the highways, he usually drives right around the speed limit. Once in a while he pushes it for a mile or two near 100, very very rarely, when there is no one else on the road. I am very glad he usually drives near the speed limit, whether it be 55 or 70, because even though he is a very alert and very good driver (he can handle a bad situation better than most because he knows better the limits of the car and it is automatic for him to do the right thing to correct when the car might lose control, while other drivers are more likely to stear the wrong direction or overcorrect) still there are bunches of people on the road who are distracted and terrible drivers. No matter how good my husband is at driving, someone else doing something unexpected on the road is dangerous. Not to mention when he does quick maneuvers sometimes he is the unexpected driver for those who drive slowly and aren’t very good at driving, and they can cause an accident, because they are surprised. He did that more when he was younger, now he has calmed down.

When we lived in TN we could not believe how many people did not know the passing lane was the left lane on the interstate. We used to ask people as almost a joke, conversation at a party. It was stunning. If you are going 95 and so is the guy behind you and come up on some idiot driving 55 in the fast lane, it is dangerous. Memphis also for sure had the most drivers who don’t signal to change lanes and make turns of anywhere I have ever lived, but it happens everywhere to some extent. Some people signal right as they turn, even though they have already been braking. They have no concept of the importance of drivers around you being able to predict your actions on the road.

Also, people in America have too much road rage and like to fuck with other drivers and have dangerous habits. They come right up on the car in front of them if they want to go faster, rather than flashing the car with beams to signal they want to pass. The car in front whether you tail them or flash them might very well brake a little or slow down to “get you back” rather than just move out of the way to let the faster driver go by. My assumption is in Germany slower drivers still stay right and they get out of the way of faster cars without any feelings of anger. We have had many Q’s here where some of our slower driving jellies think going the speed limit or even less in the left should be just fine and everyone else should slow down.

Anyway, my point is America can’t handle high speeds for the most part. I am going to assume Germany has a national driver’s license, @mattbrowne can hopefully confirm that, and the computer and road test is very good. In America each state does whatever it wants, tons and tons of people on the road don’t know a lot of the rules. Between people coming here from the islands where they never drive over 40 mph, so when they get on our highways they can’t handle high speeds well; to tourists not going where they are going; to 16 year olds taking too many chances; it is a dangerous mix. Some places in the country are obviously more congested and more at risk than others. Slower speeds means more stopping time.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^Larger brakes and low mass means shorter stopping distances.

Strict lane discipline and alert drivers would solve 90% of our woes.

JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke Are you trying to say that speed is not part of the stopping distance equation?

I am not sure what you mean by strict lane discipline? I agree alertness is an issue, and focus, two separate things for me. Tons of Americans are sleep deprived and on the road. It is as bad as drunk driving if people are sleepy enough.

SecondHandStoke's avatar


Of course velocity is part of the stopping distance equation.

I was just suggesting that there are other factors dri.. I mean motori.. I mean commuters don’t consider.

“I am not sure what you mean by strict lane discipline.”

Oh boy…

JLeslie's avatar

Do you want to tell me what it means? I can guess. Maybe it means staying right for slower traffic? Maybe it means staying in your lane on turns (I just had someone honk at me because I stayed in my lane on a left turn and he went too wide. Idiot. There was two left turning lanes and I was in the outside line on the turn. The riad we turned onto had three lanes, and we were turning from two lanes. I am always amazed at how many people don’t know how to make a left turn). Maybe it means staying in a lane just driving straight? I really don’t remember hearing that term before.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Always use the rightmost possible lane.


JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke When driving straight on an interstate? If the highway has three lanes or more in one direction I would argue staying out of the passing lane is the rule. Driving in the middle helps people enter and exit the highway, unless you drive very slowly, then stay right yeah. Be aware of the speed of traffic in each lane. On regular local roads there is really no rule or law about staying right as far as I know, although depending on the road and turning lanes there might be norms people abide by on those roads.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Your refusing to move as far right as possible forces other drivers in middle lanes to enter the leftmost lane to pass you.

Thus blocking the lane for drivers traveling even faster.

Driving is about constant observation, assessment and adjustment.


JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I pick the lane driving my speed, only going to the left to pass. I live in a very congested area. I am not refusing to do anything. I am not floating in the middle lane with no one else around or with cars passing me on the right. There is always constant traffic pretty much. If the road was empty I would stay in the rightest lane.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^Congested areas are often a different matter.

On the Autobahn passing on the right is a serious offense, yet allowed in very heavy traffic.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, congested area. I am not talking about the autobahn, I am talking about American highways, but still slower traffic stay right. I don’t know how often the autobahn is 3–5 lines in one direction. I remember travelling on one that was two lanes. Most highways around me are 3–4 lanes in one direction.

WestRiverrat's avatar

We have an interchange next to a bridge that has a blind merge for traffic entering the freeway from the right. You are telling me it is safer to stay in the right lane and not allow incoming traffic time to merge?

You should always drive with an awareness of your surroundings and pick the lane that is safest, regardless of which lane it is.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

The safest option is PREDICTABLE ORDER.


JLeslie's avatar

Right, predictability makes things safer, driving with the speed of traffic makes things safer, and letting traffic merge on and off easily makes things safer. Some highways have “weave” entrances and exits, with very short merge areas, best if they can move over quickly without dodging other traffic not exiting. Locals know where the exits and entrances are difficult or precarious. Or, as @WestRiverrat stated blind entrances can be dangerous and if traffic is not crowding the lane being merged into that is good. Moreover, many turnpike stops amd some other highway entrances enter into the left lane of the highway, so being more obedient to speed limits in those areas is prudent, even if the left lane on that highway tends to move faster.

ragingloli's avatar

On a serious note, it is the same reason why you tell a child to be home at 20:00, because otherwise it will go out and drink itself senseless and stab people in its drunken rage, while you can reasonably trust an adult to act responsibly.
Colonial culture is too immature.
They lack discipline.
They do not care that their road-behaviour might endanger other participants.
They do not care that it endangers themselves.
Their hatred for anything government related makes them blind to the fact that traffic rules are there for a reason.
Colonial cars come equipped with cupholders.
You can buy fucking laptop trays for your steering wheel.

Colonials just can not be trusted with the privilege of unlimited speed.

Harold's avatar

Because Germany makes great cars, and Yank cars are crap (with rare exceptions).....

SecondHandStoke's avatar

^How do you account for the BMW plant in Spartanburg, SC?

On a serious note.

How do you account for me @ragingloli

If you were paying attention you’d see that this colonial is a believer in the German model.

I make it impossible for you to make the sweeping generalizations you make on this subject.

You say we lack discipline, that we don’t care if our behavior endangers others.

Shall I locate and post that video of Germans hooning on pedestrian filled surface streets with cars they rented from the Nürburgring?

You talk about trust, Loli.

Shall we have a discussion about the Versailles Armistice Treaty?

ragingloli's avatar

You mean that rag that put the sole blame for WW1 on Germany and was one of the direct causes for the rise of Hitler?
The other cause being the Colonial caused Great Depression.

Oh and I am sure you know the saying “exceptions confirm the rule”.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Why would I necessarily say “exceptions confirm the rule?”

You don’t acknowledge by appreciation of the German motoring model.

I understand, that wouldn’t be adversarial.

JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke I basically said the same things about Americans on the road and I am an American. Regarding the cars I meant at the time when interstates were being laid down. Ever drive a Chrysler Duster or a Ford LTD? You can turn the steering wheel quite a distance with the wheels on the road barely moving. Not great for precision driving, and many of the highway and highway rules were built before those cars. For sure Porsches and Mercedes Hugged the road better. My husband races a Porsche from the early 89’s, I cannot imagine putting a 1980’s American car on Road Atlanta or Sebring. Maybe they do it? I don’t know everything they race on that track, I doubt they can get upto the same speed. They wiuld not make it through the tirns as well even if they had the horsepower.

It took the Germans a while to catch on that they need to make their car interiors like a living room for Americans with reclining gushy chairs and places to put their drinks down. I’m glad for the gushier seats, but I use my cup holder only on long trips (over two hours) sometimes not even then, and it is almost always water in the cup or bottle.

I hear Americans argue they can drive fine after a few alcoholic drinks in them. I see women turn their heads to talk to their kids when driving. I see people texting while driving, vehicle moving, and the kicker is when Oprah did her no texting campaign many many people said they didn’t know it was dangerous. Huh? I admit I sometimes do things that aren’t the safest on the road, but they don’t know taking their eyes off the road while moving isn’t safe?! You have to be really really stupid in my opinion. I was going to write ignorant, but that is too polite a word.

Most American do care about safety, and drive well, but the percentage of our drivers who are poor drivers or don’t know road rules well is too high. Ask a bunch of people why they should turn on their lights in the rain. Many will say they don’t do it because it doesn’t help them see. You can drive in the rain and see just how many people do not turn on their lights, even though almost every state has a law about it; forget simply intuitively knowing you should do it for safety.

Drive after a storm when all the electricity is out and see how many people blast right through an intersection where the traffic lights aren’t working, or don’t wait for their turn because they are on the larger road if the intersection is met by a minor road.

Or, the guy who drove me home one night when I was in my teens who drive right through the flashing reds because he though that meant yield.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Ah yes.

Motorists that tolerate driving but would prefer to be piloting their living rooms down the freeway. Sad. Might as well read the paper.

A car’s interior should be driver focused, a place to conduct the business, the activity of driving.

Not that you can’t have both to an extent. I’m one of the people that didn’t groan when Porsche produced the Panamera after so many years of talk.

Services are available to make (some of) your earlier American cars more roadworthy (Modern brakes, chassis reinforcement, ride height adjustment, etc). You can chose from completely reversible modifications to entire rebuilding of the car.

Gushier seats are a profound frustration. My Integra (DC1) is old enough to have narrow, laterally supportive Japanese sized seats. Later models have less effective wider ones. It’s claimed that the only difference between the USDM and JDM Nissan GT-Rs (R35) is seat width. If I was in the market for one I would source a narrower JDM seat for the driver position.

Some of us understand that driving is a full time activity and it’s own reward. We should be considered in the form of car and highway design.

JLeslie's avatar

@SecondHandStoke One of my complaints about the Panomara was the seats were not comfortable enough. LOL. My husband called me crazy, but when I said the same thing to our service guy at Porsche probably a year after its introduction he said that is one of the complaints that has come up again and again. Our 2007 911 key thingy to unlock and lock the doors is one botton to both lock and unlock. That is stupid and ridiculous and designed by some guy who loves minimalist things, and cannot understand why anyone would want to push a button twice. That fits into a German, male, engineer, stereotype for me. Porsche got tons of complaints about that, especially women complaining, and they changed it. Porsche is good for driving, but not great for dashboards and some comfor issuest, and practical use type things, especially in their older cars some things were awful. Air conditioning, horrible and complicated.

Honestly, the cars that had the most thought put into a combination of comfort, logic and performance for me has been Japanese cars. Especially 20 years ago. I never was buyingnhigh performance cars, just Nissan Stanzas and Maxima, and Mazda 626 and Miata, Acura, all zero problems with nice features. Now all the cars are better from all countries.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

How did Hitler get into a question about drivinig and roadways?

JLeslie's avatar

Hitler expanded the Audobahn system in Germany. You know, he liked to move things around and wanted to connect all the countries he was occupying. He has been credited with creating the “interstate” system, but he didn’t really start it.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central He is the one that fully funded the Autobahn. Partly as a public works project similar to the USA’s Tennessee Valley Authority and the WPA, and partly to create routes to move his armies quickly from one area to another.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

And people say Hitler never done any good for mankind; autobahn rules!

JLeslie's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I think it was the Italians, of all people, LOL, who first created the system of roads with on and off “ramps” with no traffic lights. I’d need to look up the history. Germany picked up on the idea, maybe other countries did too, but Hitler truly expanded it. I don’t know that people say Hitler never did any good, but he certainly did enough bad that it is hard to see through the jungle of his horribleness.

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Hitler also brought us the Olympic Torch Relay.

JLeslie's avatar

Really? I never heard that.

We once had a fluther Q asking if people would support using some of Hitler’s scientific findings even if they were gained in horrific ways. I guess that is like asking if you will take a treatment developed using embryos if you are against embyonic stem cell research.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – They were all free for many decades. A while ago trucks having to pay toll was introduced. And soon cars too. The argument is this: Germans have to pay in France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and so forth, so it’s only fair that we charge them too.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne Are Germans able to pay a lower fee? In the state of FL if we have the “sunpass” that reads our information as we pass through the tolls, many of the tolls are cheaper than paying cash. So, generally, Florida residents who use the toll roads often pay less. But, it isn’t a huge amount less. I don’t think we need to prove we are Floridians though, I think anyone can buy the sunpass.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – The new system for cars is still in the making. My guess there’s a yearly pass and several short time interval options. For trucks the actual distance gets recorded:

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