Support our mission
 

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. personnel and Germans are united in their opposition to a European Union official’s calls for speed limits on the autobahn.

Last week in Germany’s largest newspaper, das Bild, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called on Germany to give up the famous freedom of its highways and impose speed limits to fight global warming.

His demand drew angry responses in a country that cherishes what it calls “free driving for free citizens.”

“There are so many areas in which we waste energy in a completely senseless way and burden the climate,” Dimas said in the Bild’s Sunday newspaper.

“A simple measure in Germany could be a general speed limit on highways,” he added, according to the newspaper. “Speed limits make a lot of sense for many reasons and are completely normal in most EU states, as in the U.S.A. — only in Germany, strangely, is it controversial.”

The commissioner did not suggest a specific speed limit for Germany but in most European countries the highway speed limit is either 75 and 80 miles per hour. Britain, Latvia and Sweden have the strictest speed limit, 70 mph, according to an EU Web site.

U.S. soldiers interviewed at Grafenwöhr on Tuesday opposed speed limits on the highways.

Spc. Jermaine Harris of Queens, N.Y., who drives a 1988 7-series BMW that he bought for $1,500, said driving on the autobahn is one of the perks of being in Europe.

“You can go some place far away and it doesn’t take that long to get there,” said Harris, who said he drives about 220 kilometers per hour (about 137 mph) on the autobahn.

Despite the high speeds, Germany highways are safer than U.S. highways, he said.

“European cars are built for the autobahn,” added Harris, who plans to take his BMW back to the U.S. when he goes home.

Another autobahn fan, Staff Sgt. Marcus Berartez of Brownwood, Texas, said he didn’t see the sense of a speed limit.

“If you can afford to drive that fast, why not do it?” he said.

Germans appear to share the Americans’ views. Dimas’ comments drew a slew of largely negative responses Sunday on the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Internet site. One respondent described the debate as a “farce” and questioned the environmental record of Dimas’ native Greece.

Another demanded “free driving for free citizens.”

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Sunday that he has “nothing against [a limit] for reasons of traffic safety” but argued that the restriction would not encourage manufacturers to produce more environmentally-friendly engines.

The German Association of the Automotive Industry, which represents an industry that includes such famous names as Volkswagen, BMW, Porsche and DaimlerChrysler, said Germany needed “no coaching” from Brussels on how to protect the climate — “above all when the proposals are only symbolic.”

Dirk Inger, a spokesman for the German Transport Ministry, said a study by a federal agency had found that an overall autobahn limit of 100 kilometers per hour — or 62 mph — would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by only 0.6 percent.

Each 5 mph a car drives over 60 mph reduces fuel economy by 10 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Stars and Stripes reporter Seth Robson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Migrated

stars and stripes videos

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up