Austria testing speed limit of 140 kph on motorways
Austria started a controversial experiment on Wednesday by raising the speed limit from 130 to 140 kph, on two six-lane sections of the country’s main motorway between Vienna and Salzburg. “It’s intended to help motorists to save time”, explained Transport Minister, Norbert Hofer, from the extreme right party FPÖ.
However, the press noted that the time saved would be limited to two minutes for vehicles traveling at the maximum speed on the 60 km of test sections.
If the test is deemed conclusive after one year, the 140 kph speed limit can be extended “to other routes”, said the minister, ensuring that “infrastructure and cars are increasingly safe to make this possible.”
Described as “populist” by the social-democratic, liberal and ecological oppositions, the measure was also denounced by environmental organizations, who accused it of jeopardizing road safety and harming the environment. The faster you drive, the higher the pollution.
Speed and fatalities
The Austrian ÖAMTC automobile club ensured that motorways fatalities were not necessary correlated with speed. Fatality rates are identical in Austria with Germany’s, where half of the autobahn network has no speed limit for cars: 1,7 deaths per 100 million km/vehicle.
However, ÖAMTC also stated that the breaking distance increases with a speed change from 130 to 140 kph from 101,3 to 114,5 meters on dry roads and from 129,3 to 140,9 meters in the rain.
The FPÖ, which returned to power at the end of 2017 in coalition with Conservative Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has been committed to increasing speed on motorways for many years. In 2006, this party briefly implemented the 160 kph on a test section, an experiment that had no future.
Higher risk of crashing
According to data from the European Commission, only 8% of road fatalities in 2017 occurred on motorways versus 55% on rural roads, and 37% in urban areas. So, do speed limits reduce the number of deaths on motorways?
In a report from 2008 the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) stated: “The relationship between speed and road accidents has been studied extensively and is very clear: the higher the speed, the greater the probability of a crash and the severity of the crashes.”
Some academic research has proved that an increase in average traffic speed of just 4,8 kph would be expected to cause more than 25 extra deaths a year on motorways and more than 100 serious injuries.
In that same 2008 report, the ETSC was firm and clear in its overall conclusion: “Empirical evidence indicates that all instances of introduced speed limits on German motorways have caused very large casualty reductions.”