A Quick History of Germany’s Autobahns

autobahn in germany

If you’re into history or you just love to drive, you’ve no doubt heard of the world-famous German Autobahns. These speed-limit-free roads are a dream drive for many auto enthusiasts, but what are they really like and how did they come to be? Keep reading for a quick history of Germany’s Autobahns.

The First Limited-Access Roadways

New York was the first city in the world to build long stretches of roads on which vehicles could only enter or exit at certain points, also known as limited-access highways. These were built in the early 1900s, just a few years before construction of the first controlled-access roads began in Germany in 1913. However, WW2 delayed the opening until 1921.

How It Began

The first stretches of road were built just outside of Berlin and were used as a test track for racing. Keep in mind that the fastest car in the 20s could travel 119 mph while most average vehicles traveled in the 30mph range. While accidents can still be terrible at those speeds, just ask this Orange County motor vehicle accident lawyer, the idea of racing down an open highway was drastically different from what it is today.

Although it was nothing more than two long, straight stretches of road with sharply banked turns, the divided roadway construction made it Germany’s first highway. The initial construction was originally used as a training road for racecar drivers, but it remains as part of the Autobahn to this day.

Hitler’s Influence

In the mid-1920s, Germany planned to construct an inter-city highway system. It wasn’t until 1933 that construction really ramped up. The Nazi party used the nation-wide transportation network as a propaganda tool, placing value in an individual’s ability to move about the nation at an affordable cost. This led to the Reich Autobahn, Germany’s first true highway.

Military Use

The construction of Reich Autobahn proceeded quickly in the early 1930s but was slowed down due the strain WWII placed on working conditions. The highways became more of a military asset and were used for military vehicles and even as airstrips for military planes, similar to the United States. Construction halted in 1943 after 1,300 miles were completed.

After the War

After Germany’s defeat, the soon to be named Federal Highway was widely damaged from bombing and artillery. Other parts were not completed. In the early 1950s, repair of the existing road began, and eventually, expansion took place. Within 10 years there were 1,865 miles completed. By 1990, there were 6,835 miles of road. Today, the German Autobahn is 8,078 miles of modern road.

No Speed Limit?

Although it is widely believed that there is no speed limit on the autobahn, that’s not really the case. There are areas where the speed limit ranges from 50-81 mph, depending on traffic, time of day, weather, and road conditions. 

Some vehicles such as heavy trucks also have their own speed limit. However, the speed limits are mostly a recommendation for safety and not an illegality. This Redondo Beach personal injury attorney sees plenty of accidents with out laws in place, so you can imagine how dangerous the Autobahn can be. 

What’s It Really Like?

It might seem like the perfect driving experience, but driving without any speed limits can be extremely dangerous and mentally exhausting. Every move you make must be done with complete concentration and precision. At such high speeds, any obstacle in the road or driving mistake could result in a fatal accident. If you’re planning a trip, you better be an expert driver. 

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