Until you've done it a few times, legally driving as fast as you want on Germany's Autobahn is an exciting prospect. Many years ago, on a quiet Sunday morning on an almost deserted stretch of newly-paved Autobahn near Saarbrucken, I briefly hit 210kmh (131mph) in a 5-series BMW. But the road wasn't entirely deserted and in doing so I overtook a couple of much slower vehicles. As I did, I realized that at a certain point in the passing process there was a moment when my safety was totally dependent on the car being passed. Had the other driver(s) decided to change lanes at the wrong time, drastic evasive action would have been required to avoid a collision—and quite frankly I wasn't at all sure I could have maintained control while braking and/or swerving at that speed. There is always danger, of course, in passing at such high speed, but the greater danger is the difference in speed between the two vehicles. If, at 70mph, you are two car lengths to the rear of a car going 55mph, and that car suddenly changes to your lane, you can avoid a collision by simply backing off the gas, or by braking. Even if the slower car is only a few feet ahead and decides abruptly to change lanes, at a last resort the faster car can move onto the left shoulder. But at 115 to 130mph, there is no time for braking and only the most skillful driver would be able to move onto the left shoulder without going into a skid that could end in disaster.

These days, when conditions are right, I'm comfortable cooking along at 150 to 160 kmh (94-100 mph). That speed requires a lot of lane changing, because the faster Audis, Beamers, and MBZs rocket past me in the left lane, while trucks and slower passenger cars dawdle along in right lane.

For years there have been predictions of Autobahn speed limits. To a large extent, that has already taken place. As traffic increases, new signs limiting speeds to 80 kmh to 130 kmh seem to pop up every day. The Munich-Salzburg section of Autobahn was once a veritable race track for almost its entire 140 km (88 miles) length. Now there are only a few brief 'any speed goes' stretches. It is said that half of Germany's 12,000 km of Autobahn has no speed limit, but that undoubtedly includes many kilometers of highway where the speed can temporarily be reduced by electronic signage when traffic and weather conditions warrant.

Applying more brakes to fast motoring in Germany is the city-state of Bremen which has imposed a speed limit of 120 kmh (75 mph) on its 60 km of Autobahn. It thus became the first German state to introduce a general Autobahn speed limit. It did so for both safety and environmental reasons, and hopes other states will follow suit.

So if you need to get some really fast driving out of your system in Germany, you'd better do it soon because those little circular 120 kmh and 130 kmh signs are going up all over the country. (Recommended reading: Driving the Autobahn)

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