The permissible or permitted maximum speed , also known as the speed limit , is a binding limit value for the speed of a vehicle that must not be exceeded. The term speed limit is also used colloquially in this context .
It can generally be stipulated by ordinance or marked by traffic signs and applies to certain vehicles, the transport of certain goods or on certain routes of roads, railways or waterways as well as occasionally in the airspace.
Speed limits are primarily used to protect road users. The kinetic energy ( kinetic energy ) of a vehicle, which has a destructive effect in the event of an impact, as well as the braking distance are proportional to the square of the speed. The following applies:
- Kinetic energy
- Braking distance during emergency braking
This means that in an accident at 200 km / h, for example, four times the amount of energy must be dissipated by suddenly reducing the speed compared to an accident at 100 km / h. The mass of the vehicle, however, “only” has a linear effect on the kinetic energy. A vehicle with a mass of two tons can generate twice as much energy in an accident as one with just one ton.
The braking distance of a vehicle at 200 km / h is also four times as long compared to the same at 100 km / h.
A lower speed can therefore significantly reduce both the probability and the severity of accidents.
Often, speed limits are set up at accident black spots such as intersections. There is research that suggests that speed limits increase road safety mainly through their coordination function - similar to the requirement to drive on a certain side of the road. Speed limits can help reduce the variance in speed driven, further reducing the chance of an accident.
Environment and climate
Many speed limits serve environmental protection , especially noise protection , since the sound intensity of the tire-road noise increases with the third to fourth power, that of the aerodynamic noise with approximately the sixth power of the speed. Temporary restrictions apply in the context of an ozone alarm , as the emission of pollutants also increases disproportionately with increasing speed. Speed restrictions are also justified with climate protection, since they reduce the consumption of fossil fuels.
By minimizing the speed differences that are common in free traffic, the formation of congestion can also be avoided: limits that are as adaptive as possible, but also permanent (for example on inclines) bring traffic flow effects through harmonized speeds.
Reduction of stress
Speed limits continue to be seen as desirable in order to bring about a cultural change and more consideration in road traffic.
Future of automobile traffic
Speed limits are also considered to be desirable for the promotion of electric cars and for the future-oriented development of the automotive industry.
General speed limit
While the maximum speed permitted on the outskirts and on motorways differs across Europe, the limit in urban areas is almost everywhere at 50 km / h. The only exceptions with 60 km / h are the Ukraine and occasionally Poland , where this applies between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Albania and Andorra, on the other hand, have set a speed limit of 40 km / h in built-up areas.
The following general speed limits currently apply in European countries, provided that no other speed is indicated (all values in km / h ):
|country||Cars and motorcycles||Cars with trailers|
Country / expressway or
Country / expressway or
|Belgium ( Wallonia and Brussels )||50||90/120||120||50||70/90||120|
|Belgium ( Flanders )||50||70/120||120||50||70/90||120|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||50||80/100||130||50||80||80|
|Germany||50||100 / ∞||∞||50||80/100||80/100|
|France||50||80 (90) / 110 (100)||110/130||50||80 (> 3.5 t GVW currently)||90 (> 3.5 t GVW currently)|
|Isle of Man||48||∞||-||48||∞||-|
|Sweden||40-60||70-90 / 100||110-120||80||80|
Notes on the table
- Tempo 30 zones are known in residential areas in many European countries .
- in the case of structurally separate lanes or at least two marked lanes in each direction, no fixed maximum speed, but a recommended speed of 130 km / h
- no speed limit, the recommended speed is 130 km / h; Liability sharing in accidents when the driver was faster than 130 km / h, see BGH judgment of March 17, 1992 - VI ZR 62/91
- under certain conditions on motorways and motorways that require an assessment by the TÜV (see horse trailer )
- mobile homes from 1.8 t: 80 km / h
- multi-lane roads
- when it rains
- Applies to combinations with a gross vehicle weight of more than 3.5 t. Lighter combinations are treated like cars, see Article R413-2 and Article R413-8 Code de la route .
- for motorcycles 80 km / h
- for motorcycles 90 km / h
- on national
- on paved (asphalt) road surface: 90 km / h; on gravel surfaces: 80 km / h
- for motorcycles 110 km / h
- from October to March the rule is 100 km / h on expressways and 110 km / h on motorways
- some Norwegian expressways are signposted with up to 90 km / h
- some Norwegian motorways signposted with up to 110 km / h, see here
- in Norway with an unbraked trailer from 300 kg mass 60 km / h, see § 13 5. & traffic regulator
- in Norway with unbraked trailers from 300 kg mass 60 km / h also on motorways, see § 13 5. trafikkregel
- Car with a light trailer
- if a heavy trailer is pulled and the total permissible total mass does not exceed 3.5 t
- town, if a heavy trailer is pulled and the sum of the permissible total mass exceeds 3.5 t
- on expressways (motorways), if a heavy trailer is pulled and the sum of the permissible total mass exceeds 3.5 t
- Car with a light trailer or with a heavy trailer, if the sum of the permissible total mass does not exceed 3.5 t
- if a heavy trailer is pulled and the sum of the permissible total mass exceeds 3.5 t
- 50 km / h from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., 60 km / h from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
- on single-lane motorways and double-lane roads with at least two lanes in each direction of travel 100 km / h; on two-lane motorways with at least two lanes in each direction of travel 110 km / h; otherwise 90 km / h. As of January 1, 2011, an increase to 120 km / h was decided
- increase to 140 km / h from 2011, see here
- Trucks and articulated buses: 80 km / h; Coach: 100 km / h
- Increase to 160 km / h planned on some routes, see here
- Due to the rise in oil prices, there was a temporary drop to 110 km / h between March 7, 2011 and June 30, 2011. See here
- Originally planned to increase to 160 km / h on some routes from 2009, see here (PDF; 327 kB)
For the situation in Germany, see Maximum speed limit in road traffic (Germany) .
Switzerland and Liechtenstein
- For the situation in Switzerland, see road system in Switzerland and Liechtenstein # Speed restrictions in Switzerland .
- For the situation in Liechtenstein see road system in Switzerland and Liechtenstein # Speed restrictions in Liechtenstein .
Regardless of the means of transport, there are special maximum speeds for transporting large cattle: 50/70/80/80. The following are considered to be cattle: horses, donkeys, mules, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs (also for private transport).
In highway tunnels with oncoming traffic, 80 km / h are or were typically allowed by signs, in highway tunnels without oncoming traffic 100 km / h. These significantly lower speeds compared to country roads (100 km / h) and freeway outdoors (130 km / h) are due to the narrow space in tunnels.
Since July 2018, a speed of 80 km / h (until then 90 km / h) has been permitted on country roads.
In the Netherlands, following a successful lawsuit by the Urgenda Foundation, the government was legally obliged to take effective measures to reduce CO 2 emissions, whereupon the maximum speed limit on motorways from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. from March 2020 back to 100 km / h is reduced, which has been in place since 1957. Outside of this time, the speed of 130 km / h, which has been permitted since 2012, remains.
United States of America
- In Australia , a maximum speed of 100, 110 or 120 km / h applies on highways, open roads have a speed of 80 km / h. In the Northern Territory there was no general speed limit outside of towns until 2007, but since then it has been 110 or 130 km / h.
- In Brunei , 100 km / h are permitted on motorways, 80 km / h on open-air roads and 50 km / h in urban areas.
- In the People's Republic of China , a limit of 120 km / h has been in effect on motorways since May 1, 2004, previously it was 110 km / h. Motorways ( kuaisu gonglu ) are usually limited to 100 km / h. Open roads (China National Highways, which are not motorways) have a maximum speed of 80 km / h.
- In Iran , 50 km / h apply in urban areas. On city highways 110 km / h, unless otherwise indicated. On country roads with two-way traffic during the day 95 km / h, at night 85 km / h, without two-way traffic 110 km / h. 120 km / h is permitted on motorways and 110 km / h for buses and trucks.
- In Canada you can drive 100 or 110 km / h on highways, depending on the province. The speeds are signposted in km / h.
- In Namibia the rate is 60 km / h in urban areas, 120 km / h on paved roads outside of built-up areas and 100 km / h on unpaved roads outside built-up areas. For trucks, 80 km / h applies outside urban areas, for buses 100 km / h.
- In New Zealand are 50 km / h in urban areas and 100 km / h on country roads and highways. Learner drivers are generally allowed to drive a maximum of 70 km / h. Trucks have a maximum speed of 90 km / h, school buses of 80 km / h.
- In Peru , the speed limit is 120 km / h on the motorway ( Panamericana in Lima ), 80 km / h on country roads and 30 km / h in localities.
- In South Africa the rate is 60 km / h in urban areas, 100 km / h outside of built-up areas and 120 km / h on motorways.
- In South Korea there is currently 110 km / h on motorways. However, the Korean government is planning a project to establish an “intelligent next-generation motorway system”, which will in future be able to drive safely and with less noise at speeds of up to 160 km / h. To this end, a 30 km long test track should be built by 2016.
- In the USA , depending on the state, the maximum speed on interstate highways (comparable to highways) is between 89 and 137 km / h (55 to 85 mph). On "normal" highways (comparable to country roads), 89 km / h (55 mph), sometimes also 105 km / h (65 mph), are allowed.
- In the United Arab Emirates , the speed limit is 120 km / h on motorways, 80 km / h on open roads and 60 km / h in urban areas.
Roads with no general speed limit
In almost all states there is a general speed limit for all types of roads. No general speed limit has yet been introduced on some roads. The best-known example are the motorways in Germany .
On the Isle of Man, there is no speed limit, even on back roads. A proposal made at the end of 2004 to introduce speed limits met with overwhelming rejection and was not pursued any further.
Afghanistan , Bhutan , Burundi , Haiti , Mauritania , Myanmar , Nepal , North Korea , Somalia , Vanuatu and the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have not introduced a general speed limit . In contrast to the Federal Republic of Germany, however, many of these states have only a few or no road sections that allow driving at very high speed at all, which is due, among other things, to the high potential for self-harm due to poor road conditions. In some of these countries there are also specific speed limits.
In Tibet and the Northern Territory in Australia there was no general speed limit until 2007. Likewise, the US state of Montana had no speed limit from 1995 to 1999. The road users - as on German autobahns - were nevertheless obliged to drive “sensibly”. It was within the discretion of the authorities to impose fines in spite of missing signs; the limit for this was often 90 mph (145 km / h).
Rwanda also had no speed limit until a few years ago. In 1996 Rwanda was one of the countries with the lowest road safety in the world, but the reasons for this were very diverse. It was normal to ignore traffic rules and driving under the influence of drugs, especially alcohol, was comparatively common. The entire road network was also in a desolate condition. In 2001, as part of a comprehensive program to improve this situation, speed limits - 40 km / h in urban areas and 80 km / h overland - were introduced.
History of speed limits
Speed limits did not just emerge after the invention of the automobile . Even for teams of horses, the speed was limited to walking or trotting (see photo on the right with an example from 1838). The District Office Regensburg reported that in April 1847 "4 people received fines for riding too fast or driving in a carriage" .
In the early days of the automobile, most countries had no corresponding regulations. Instead, in some areas there were regulations for the economic protection of the classic horse-drawn carriage, which limited automobiles to very low speeds even for the time at which they were economically useless. Only in the course of time were these limitations lifted. In Great Britain, the Red Flag Act was in effect from 1865 to 1896 , which limited the speed of motor vehicles (then steam cars ) to 2 mph (3.2 km / h) in urban areas and 4 mph (6.4 km / h) in rural areas.
In 1909 the German Emperor passed the first motor vehicle law for the German Empire, the forerunner of the road traffic regulations and road traffic licensing regulations . From 1910, vehicles up to 5.5 tons were subject to a speed limit of 15 km / h in urban areas. From March 1, 1923, a imperial ordinance allowed a speed of 30 km / h in urban areas. The higher administrative authority could increase this to 40 km / h. The first Reichsstraßenverkehrordnung from 1934 lifted all speed restrictions in the meantime. Restrictions were reintroduced in 1939, also on the new motorways. From then on, 40 km / h was valid in built-up areas; outside of 80 km / h for cars and 60 km / h for trucks and buses.
The Federal Republic of Germany partially repealed these regulations: From January 23, 1953 to August 31, 1957, there were no speed restrictions for cars and motorcycles. It was not until September 1, 1957, that a speed limit of 50 km / h was introduced in town. A further restriction to 30 km / h in urban areas has been discussed by the government since 1983 ( Höcherl Commission).
In Austria, a test was started on the Tauern Autobahn in 2006 at 160 km / h, but ended again after a few months. Variable speed displays allowed up to 160 km / h in good weather and traffic conditions, but only 80 km / h in bad weather. Today 130 km / h are again permitted there, the subject of 160 km / h is currently no longer pursued in Austria. Between August 2018 and February 2020, a maximum speed of 140 km / h was tested on two test tracks on the A1 (Westautobahn) .
In 1985 the speed limit in urban areas was still 60 km / h in several European countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Yugoslavia, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Hungary. In Switzerland this restriction was in effect until the end of 1983.
In some countries, an increase in the speed limit on motorways has been discussed or tested again and again, and in individual states the maximum speed on motorways or on selected routes has been increased:
- In Denmark , since April 2004, 130 km / h instead of 110 km / h have been allowed on around two thirds of the motorways.
- In Italy , the speed limit on some three-lane motorways with hard shoulders was increased from 130 to 150 km / h by signs in 2013. Otherwise 130 km / h applies nationwide on the motorways.
- In the Netherlands , after a one-year test phase on some sections of the motorway, the maximum speed was generally increased from 120 to 130 km / h. This affects about half of the motorway network. From March 2020, there will be a general speed limit of 100 km / h during the day (6 am to 7 pm).
- In Poland , the maximum speed on motorways was increased from 130 to 140 km / h on January 1, 2011, and on motorway-like expressways from 110 to 120 km / h.
- In Sweden , 120 km / h were introduced on around 300 km of motorway from September 2008. On many regional highways (more than 5000 km), however, the maximum speed was reduced from 90 to 80 km / h in 2008 to 2009.
- In March 2009, the Ukraine increased the maximum speed limit outside urban areas (excluding motorways) from 90 to 110 km / h.
- In the United Kingdom , in 2011, politician Philip Hammond raised the issue of raising the 1965 limit from 70 mph (about 112 km / h) to 80 mph (about 128 km / h) on motorways, but the proposal was not implemented.
- Israel increased its speed limit on some expressways to 110 km / h in January 2011 on the grounds that the Israeli road network allows this due to its advances in security.
- In the US state of Texas , the speed limit for a section of the expressway was increased to the equivalent of 137 km / h (85 mph) in October 2012. So far, this only affects a 66 km long section of the toll State Highway 130, which acts as a bypass near the city of Austin and is intended to relieve the existing Interstate Highway 35. This means that Texas is currently the highest legal speed in the USA.
Enforcement of speed limits
Appropriate symbols are used to indicate speed limits that go beyond general speed limits. Almost everywhere in the world a circular sign with a red border is used for this. However, square characters are used in the United States and Canada .
While most countries show speed limits in km / h , in the UK and USA they are shown in miles per hour ( mph ). Since Great Britain uses the same signs as the European mainland, continental Europeans occasionally get irritated by the lack of reference to the unit of measurement. The speed is usually given as a whole multiple of five or ten; in German-speaking countries, steps of ten are common.
The characters can be limited in their validity by additional signs attached below , so that z. B. only applies on wet roads. Signs can either be permanent or limited in time - for example at construction sites. In addition to the boards, speed limits can also be marked directly on the road. However, they are only indicative or reminder and are not legally binding.
Special speed limits are lifted in Europe by the signs “End of the permitted maximum speed”, “End of all route bans” or another speed-regulating traffic sign (e.g. place-name signs). In some countries such as the Czech Republic, a speed limit ends, as does prohibitions at the next intersection or junction.
In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, a speed limit can alternatively be displayed with the sign “Beginning of the zone with maximum permitted speed” (Germany: sign 274.1); In this case it is canceled with the sign “End of the zone with maximum permitted speed” (Germany: sign 274.2). The "General maximum speed" sign that exists in localities in Switzerland has a similar function to the zone sign. In Sweden there are no signs saying “End of the allowed speed limit”, only signs with the speed limit. The beginning of the local area is also signposted in Sweden with the maximum speed limit.
Disregard and control
Speed limits are met with little acceptance by some road users. However, driving at excessive speeds is listed in many statistics as the most common or second most common cause of fatal accidents.
In order to ensure compliance with the speed limit and to identify and track violations, controls are carried out as part of traffic monitoring. Today these often use aids such as radar devices , laser pistols or section controls . In many countries, such investigations are carried out by the police. In order to put the educational effect in the foreground compared to the punishment, speed indicators are set up which show the driver the speed at which he is driving.
In rail transport, the permissible speed depends on the condition of the route, the vehicle properties and the timetable. The lowest value is decisive in each case. Curve radii, the superstructure shape and safety-related criteria such as distant signal distances, the length of the approach route of route crossing safety systems and the presence of route block systems and train control devices have a limiting effect on the route side . In Germany, there is currently a speed limit of 50 km / h on routes without a route block or without effective train control systems. The train drivers are informed of the permissible line speed via speed signals; speed reductions are also pre-signaled in the braking distance. The speed signaling had gaps in the past, in Germany the beginning of a constant speed reduction was not signaled until the 1960s. This gap was closed by the Deutsche Reichsbahn in the 1980s by generally setting up corner panels Lf 5. The German Federal Railroad, on the other hand, waived the signaling of speed increases with the introduction of the speed signals Lf 6 and 7. The drivers had to take these from the book timetable. This last gap was not closed until the second half of the 1990s. A signal "End of the speed limit" is usually only given by railway companies for temporary slow speed areas. Constantly applicable speed changes upwards are signaled with information on the new permissible speed.
The speed permitted in the branching line of points depends on the curve radius. It is usually signaled by the opaque main signal and announced in advance at the distant signal or the main signal behind.
On the vehicle side, the design of the drive, the braking capacity and, in addition, the drive power are decisive. In addition, the drive has to cope with the necessary speeds. The outwardly striking consequence were the large driving and coupled wheel sets of high-speed piston steam locomotives. Engine speeds over 300 min −1 cannot be tolerated in the long run due to the stress on the drive and coupling pins and the lubrication of the sliding parts. In the case of electric traction motors, the centrifugal forces have a limiting effect. In contrast to road traffic, a permissible speed is specified for every rail vehicle and written on the vehicle. In the case of freight wagons, this is usually only coded in the wagon number and the type symbol.
In the case of traction vehicles, the permissible speed in active operation is indicated in the driver's cabs, and the towing speed on the outside at about solebar height. It is often somewhat lower because the dynamic brake is not effective in this case. In the case of steam locomotives that are not supposed to be moved long distances without preparation because of the lubrication of the parts moving under steam during operation, the permissible towing speeds with and without drive and coupling rods are only stored in the rules. The dismantling of the drive and swing rods eliminates the problem of lubrication of the parts under steam, but it disrupts the mass balance. The result is permissible towing speeds of often only 30 to 50 km / h, with complex four-cylinder locomotives often doing significantly better. Counter-masses placed on the drive and coupling pins improve the mass balance, which is disturbed by the rod breakdown, and allow towing speeds up to the permissible travel speed. They were mainly used for transfers of electric and diesel locomotives with rod drives .
In principle, the maximum permissible speed of a train journey is specified globally and for each individual route section in the book timetable . Additional restrictions that go beyond this, such as temporary speed restrictions , are indicated by signals or communicated to the driver by commands (e.g. when driving on sight ).
The driver is responsible for maintaining the maximum permitted speed . Most railways also have technical facilities that monitor the maximum permitted speed. Corresponding systems went into operation at the Prussian State Railways at the beginning of the 20th century. In Germany, the maximum permissible speed is now monitored using point (PZB) or linear train control (LZB). With the European Train Control System a Europe-wide standard is planned.
In Germany, a maximum speed of 25 km / h applies to maneuvering , and 40 km / h when the clear route is announced.
In the case of tram operators, the generally permissible speeds apply when participating in road traffic. Because of the better braking capacity, higher speeds are permitted on a special track that is completely separated from road traffic than in rail operations under comparable circumstances.
Typically, trams run through the central streets of Linz and Graz , which are designated as pedestrian zones, not at the "walking speed" prescribed for all other vehicles, but at 25 to 30 km / h. In the particularly narrow Murgasse in Graz, a maximum speed of 20 km / h has been prescribed for some years for trams, and a measuring station clearly shows the speed of those traveling eastwards. In 2019 there was one fatal tram accident with pedestrians right here and in Linz.
Maritime and coastal shipping
In maritime shipping , speed limits near the coast are not only imposed to prevent collision, but also to avoid damage from the impact of waves and suction. The limitation on canals and in river mouths is usually staggered according to the type of ship.
There is no speed limit on the open sea.
In civil aviation , a maximum speed of 250 knots (approx. 460 km / h) is prescribed for visual flight in Germany in most airspaces below 3000 m ( airspace D, E below FL 100 and G) for safety reasons (collision avoidance) . In controlled visual flight and instrument flight, a higher speed is possible thanks to radar guidance through air traffic control - for physical reasons, for jet aircraft it is just below the speed of sound . Commercial aircraft cruising usually operate in this area. Exceeding the speed of sound is not permitted for civil aviation because of the sonic boom in German airspace.
In contrast, it is possible for military aircraft to exceed the speed of sound at high altitudes (above FL 360, which corresponds to 10,800 m) with radar guidance. Densely populated regions are to be avoided. These flights are mainly used for system tests after the maintenance of combat aircraft.
In contrast to vehicles, a speed limit in aviation does not reduce fuel consumption in all cases. Fixed-wing aircraft work most economically at high altitudes, as the air is thinner and therefore less drag. However, in order to obtain the necessary lift despite the thin air, the planes have to fly faster than at low altitude. As a result, during the most economical cruising flight of a commercial aircraft, its minimum speed rises to close to its maximum speed. A speed limit would force the aircraft to lower altitudes due to the mutual dependency of mass, lift, propulsion and drag and thus increase fuel consumption.
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