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Autobahn speeds create nervous wrecks

Driving Germany's Autobahn recently, I came across a BMW and a Mercedes that were so mangled, they could be identified only by their brand medallions.

 One can only guess at the condition of the people who had been inside. My companion suggested that smashing up such costly high-powered cars is a very expensive way to die. Unfortunately, he added, those drivers rarely die alone.

 He was referring to the fact that there is no speed limit on much of the Autobahn system and that Germany continues to debate whether there should be. There are studies and statistics on both sides, but this article is not about them. It's about the experience of driving in the right lane when cars in the left are routinely going 130 mph.

A Dutch friend called it a kind of class warfare, with drivers -- often middle-aged men -- in expensive cars coming up at a hundred miles an hour, flashing lights and pushing you aside just because they can.

So why isn't Germany doing something about this?

Well, sales at German car companies depend on producing high-performance automobiles. Another reason is what a Swedish friend calls the third rail of German politics, an untouchable, seemingly God-given right. Obviously, with no speed limit, some drivers think they have the right to go as fast as they want. And God pity the politician who challenges it, he said. Indeed, Chancellor Angela Merkel has come out loud and strong in favor of "free driving for free citizens."

What's an anxious visitor to do? Do what I did: Seek out the German equivalent of blue highways -- slower, safer roads that, by the way, are far more interesting.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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