It is no new bit of buzz to talk about the German Autobahn as though it were the safe haven for hell-bound drivers who want to race all day, until they’ve either burned the rubber off their rims, or have completely spent their fuel (which is illegal to do on the Autobahn, and is why there are petrol station every 30km).
But the Autobahn is far more controlled, civilized, and safe than most people give it credit for. Indeed, most of the vehicles found on the stretches of lacking speed limits are nothing more than economy cars.
As harrowing as this infamous freeway may seem, it is in fact safer than almost any stretch of interstate in the United States of America, save for just about four states (but who wants to play favourites?). Either way, below is a list of some rather surprising, and sometimes unbelievable accident statistics from the land of speed and money: The German Autobahn.
15. Over 100 Car Pileup… But No Deaths?
That’s right! In March of 2014, there was a striking return surge of Winter that led to extremely poor driving conditions on the Autobahn, which in turn resulted in 103 cars wedging themselves, one into the other. This section of Germany’s A45 stretch of the Autobahn was shut down for hours, of course. And according to Germany’s NH24: “one hundred policemen, eighty firefighters, twenty five rescue cars, and ten emergency physicians”, rolled up to the scene to assist in rescuing people from their cars, and dealing with injuries, be they minor or major. The astonishing part of this massive pileup, on one of the fastest highways in the world, in some of the worst driving conditions… there were no casualties. Not a single one! Sure reports vary over how many people were indeed injured (it seems somewhere near forty – though not even ten of those were seriously injured), but there was not a single reported death on the Autobahn that day. Imagine a pileup like that, in the same weather conditions in the U.S., and one is likely looking at some cot of life. If for no other reason than the maintenance, the Autobahn is impeccable.
14. Germany Had Most Collisions In Europe…
It’s true, Germany has held a several year record of most vehicular collisions, in the whole of the European Union (which is now short of stats from the United Kingdom). However, there is a bit of a surprise within this statistic itself. One might think that the majority of these collisions would come from break-neck speed driving along the Autobahn… but one would be completely wrong. Of the 2.5 million collisions in Germany in 2015 (yup, that many), only a paltry twenty thousand of them actually occurred on the Autobahn. The majority of German collisions don’t occur on the highway, going over 150kmph, no no, they are in fact most frequently occurring in urban areas. So this is like to include fender-benders, T-boning at intersections, and trotting over pedestrians and cyclists. Indeed, even the most injuries from collisions, come from urban areas as well. So in terms of any worry one might have about getting hurt on the Autobahn… statistically, there is a very slim chance of finding one’s self in a collision there, and if so, a slimmer chance of being injured.
13. Worker’s Compensation And Hitler’s Train Ride To Camp
It is seemingly very difficult to dig up statistics about just how many people died during the building of the Autobahn, but it can be said, for sure, that a great number of workers dealt with hunger, illness, injury, and death. Most of the deaths surrounding the building of the Autobahn were in fact accidents, and one can see how digging, planting explosives, laying down tarmac, and so on, could really end someone up in dire straights (especially doing such work back in the 1930s). There were several protests held by workers, to better conditions, and compensation, but one must remember that in the thick of building this motorway, Germany was under the rule of the Nazi regime. Well… there were not so many protests as one might wish there had been. Why? Well, simply put, the leaders and organizers of the protests that did occur… went for a little trip on one of Hitler’s trains. Because, of course, it was not just Slavs and Jews that Hitler sent off to camp: there were a great many Germans who found their way there as well.
12. The Second Largest Pileup In History: 259 Vehicles!
In July of 2009, the A2 stretch of the Autobahn, through Braunschweig Germany, saw the second largest vehicular pileup in history. The largest was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with upwards of three hundred vehicles involved. Germany had only 259… and when one says ‘only’, one of course means… there were 259 bloody vehicles involved! And that being said, much like the last pileup on the list… there were absolutely no casualties! There were only about sixty people injured out of two hundred and fifty nine vehicles, and of those sixty people, only ten were critically wounded. Ultimately though, they recovered. It is more than clear that when an accident occurs on the Autobahn, it can certainly lead to a great increase in insurance premiums and payouts, but there seems not to be a huge rate of death on this most open, and fast of freeways. Statistically, one is more likely to sustain fatal injury in an accident on the Autobahn, if one is driving alone, on the open road.
11. The Second Fastest Driver… Didn’t Make It…
Back in 1938, there was a section of the Autobahn, closed off to the public so that a land speed record could be made. The two drivers who made a go at this incredible feat were the racing fiends, Bernd Rosemeyer, and Rudolf Carraciola. The latter of the two, set an astonishing record of just over 432kph (268.8mph). So Rosemeyer, in his pride, decided that it was his Auto Union V-16, that would take the final record, and crown him champion. Well, he is certainly commemorated to this day, but not for having broken Carraciola’s record. Having done a couple of practise runs, Rosemeyer prepared to have a go in earnest. Unfortunately, likely due to wind conditions the streamliner that Rosemeyer was driving, took to the air, veered to the left, tossed him out of the seat, and crashed in a heap. Tossed onto the tarmac at break-neck speed, did more to the poor driver than break his neck. Alas, he did not make it. Though it must be said that Rosemeyer still holds the second fastest record on the Autobahn, still to this day, at just shy of 432kph (268.432mph). So close.
10. Most Accidents Do Occur Where There Is No Limit
Ok, so singing the praises of the Autobahn for this long, something does just have to give. And it has to start with the assertion that this freeway has no speed limits. Untrue. The Autobahn does have speed limits all across it. They do happen to be upwards of 120kph (75mph), but they exist. There are though (and this is where the false assertion comes from), sections of the Autobahn that feature no speed limit whatsoever. That sounds wonderfully liberating, but it liberates people of more than just speed limits. These sections of the freeway are where about sixty seven percent of Autobahn accidents and collisions take place. So sure, it might be one of the safer freeways in the modern world, but even the highly trained and tested drivers in Germany (it takes a whole lot of work, and money to get a full license in Germany), seem to have difficult when it comes to being given absolute freedom of travel speed.
9. There Aren’t That Many Sports Cars
There are many who think that the Autobahn is teeming with super cars: Lambos, Ferraris, Porsches, Bugattis, etc. But that’s actually not the case at all. In fact, of the top fifty cars used and purchased by German citizens, not a single one is a super car. The majority of German cars found on the Autobahn are either compact, or mini cars (fuel efficient, and overwhelmingly economical). Of a whole slew of statistics, rating the number of injuries and deaths caused by different types of vehicles, there is not even a super car section. That is how few collisions or accidents occur due to super cars. There are six different categories of vehicles listed to be a part of Autobahn accidents, and they are: mopeds, motorcycles, passenger vehicles, buses, trucks, and tractor trailers. So, to the above photo: can anyone guess just where this Lambo came from? That’s right: The United States of America. It seems unfair to pick on American motorists for crashing high end cars, but when they are almost the only people who happen to do this on the Autobahn… well, there is at least good reason for picking on them.
8. British Tank Nearly Kills Teen… After The War!
Ok, ok, so this did not occur on the Autobahn, but it does enter into the statistical probability of being more likely in a collision when off the Autobahn, than on it. In June of 2015, an eighteen-year-old girl was taking a country drive down a road that was both known as a shortcut, as well a passage for heavy, military vehicles. The road is indeed translated to be called ‘Tank Ring St.’ in English. So perhaps this girl had it coming, and details are a bit fuzzy as to how she could turn onto the street… and not notice a tank! Given the size of the car, it’s totally understandable how the twenty-four-year-old British soldier might not have noticed the car though. Thankfully, the girl was not injured (which is completely amazing), but it certainly might make her think twice about turning down a road where a sixty eight ton vehicle might be waiting to crush. Given that this is an article about statistics, it has to now be pointed out that one is statistically more likely to be crushed by a tank, when not driving on the Autobahn. That’s a stat this author did not expect to find any reference to (on or off the Autobahn).
7. Everyone Moves To The Side In An Emergency
When collisions or accidents occur on the Autobahn, there is an incredibly efficient manner of reaching the site of the incident for emergency services. Perhaps one of the most productive ways to go about maintaining movement of traffic, and optimizing the speed in which emergency services can reach an incident, all German drivers are aware of what to do. Choosing one side or another (paying no mind to fast or slow lane), motorists clear a path for emergency vehicles to speed along to any incident, with incredible ease. Given that there are twenty thousand accidents per year on the Autobahn, such a system is very important, as that means that, approximately fifty five accidents occur each day, somewhere along the Autobahn. That might sound like a lot, but one has to take into consideration that the Autobahn is near thirteen thousand kilometres long (eight thousand miles). So it’s still an extraordinarily safe freeway, given that is has over fifty collisions per day, on average.
6. Highway Hypnosis? Not On The Autobahn…
Since the 1920s, a condition called highway hypnosis has been studied, and has been used as defense for many a collision. The idea is that on long stretches of highway, one’s mind can become somewhat dulled, and goes into a subconscious state whereby it can still control the vehicle and conduct general safe driving practises, but loses ability to properly deal with the unexpected (while one’s mind wanders elsewhere consciously). It is a wonder that anyone managed to win a suit with this sort of ridiculous reasoning, but all the same, it is a supposedly actual occurrence. It is, however, seemingly not a condition that is found often, or at all on the Autobahn. There is no record to be found of a driver claiming highway hypnosis as reason for a collision or accident. It might just so happen to highway hypnosis is just a cover for those who decide not to pay attention to their surroundings, but all the same, this condition seems to be related far more to American vehicular incidences, and is devoid in the lexicon of German motoring. Perhaps yet another reason why the Autobahn is a statistically safer freeway than most.
5. Very Low Injury Rate
Now one might be inclined to say that fifty collisions per day, on thirteen thousand kilometres of freeway, is actually quite a lot. Let’s say that one makes this assertion. Regardless of this notion, the injury rate equated with these collisions is so slim as to render it almost completely unknown. The injury rate, per billion kilometres (BILLION), is no more than 0.08! To put that into perspective, that is approximately six hundred and twenty one million, three hundred and seventy one thousand, one hundred and ninety two miles. So slim is the injury rate that it seems like the only time injuries occur on the Autobahn are when it is closed for drag racing (circa 1938), or when there are massive pileups. Another way to put that sheer scale of measurement into perspective is this: one could fit almost seventy seven complete German Autobahns within one billion kilometres of road. Given the number of accidents on only one Autobahn, the scale of injury should be incredibly higher. Instead, it is virtually nothing.
4. Fatalities On The Decline
Given the insanely microscopic scale of injuries that occur on the Autobahn, one might expect then that collisions end up more frequently in fatality, rather than injury, and perhaps that’s why the injury stat is so low. But that is simply not the case. In fact, since the 1970s, fatalities on the Autobahn have been steadily decreasing. Sure, there have been some occasional spikes in fatalities over the past couple of years, but still it remains low by comparison to decades past. There were nine hundred and forty five deaths on the Autobahn in 1970. To be fair, there was a peak in 1991 with fifteen hundred deaths, but since the new millennium, vehicular fatalities on the Autobahn have dropped from just below one thousand, to barely over four hundred. Given the number of collisions per year, matched with the injury statistic per billion kilometres, this death rate is extremely low for a freeway. This is very likely due to not only the maintenance of the roadway itself, but also of the drivers’ skills.
3. Billions Of Kilometres Travelled Since The Year 2000
Through the seventies, eighties, and nineties, the amount of travel done on the Autobahn did steadily increase from thirty five billion (1970), to one hundred thirty five billion (1991). However, again with this sudden explosion in the year 2000 (perhaps not the best verb to use when talking about freeways and vehicles), and consistently from then till now, there have been over two hundred billion kilometres traveled each year on the Autobahn. This is likely what account for the two and a half million accidents that occurred in 2015. But it is worthwhile to consider that, given less than one sixth of the kilometres were traveled in 1970, versus 2015, there were still near one and a half million accidents. Over fifty years, with billions of more people on the Earth, so many more vehicles on the road, and with tons of new technology, it is actually fairly astonishing that the accident rate in this time has only gone up about a million per year. And this is all manner of accident. This includes a fender bender, or a spin out from poor weather conditions (which are the vast majority of accidents to begin with).
2. German Fatalities Compared To American
As seen already, the injury and fatality rate of the German Autobahn is staggeringly low. And this is a freeway with a very high speed limit (looked at as more of a suggestion), and several sections that are completely speed limit free (expecting minimum speed limits). In the United States of America, there is a great degree of control over speed limits, and an even greater degree of monitoring in order to enforce these limits. But based on the same length of freeway, just how does the fatality rate compare, Germany to the U.S.? Well, in Germany there are 2.7 fatalities per billion kilometres, annually. In the United States… 4.5 fatalities per billion. This is nearly double the amount of fatalities. What is so staggering about that is with nearly double the amount of fatalities as the Autobahn, the U.S. also has perhaps double the amount of strict regulation on speed limits. To be fair though, the process of getting a German driver’s licence does, in every way, make for a better driver than that of American licensing process.
1. There Is No Road Rage
Perhaps one of the main differences with regards to the fatality rate between the United States and Germany, has to do with the amount of aggressive driving, and “road rage” in each country. Though the U.S. clamps down a lot on speed, Germany affords its attention to aggression, which seems to be doing very well for them. When was the last time one saw a driver pulled over for being too close behind another vehicle here in North America? This is a fairly serious offence in Germany, and one is given a substantial fine for being anywhere closer than two metres behind a vehicle. The seriousness of this is due to the break neck speeds at which some drive on the Autobahn. Another heavily enforced German motorway law is in regards to passing on the right side of a vehicle. This is prohibited in America as well, but hardly enforced. In Germany, on the Autobahn, the left lane is the fast lane, and the right lane is the… slightly less fast lane. Even just these two pieces of legislature, coupled and topped with a law against honking or taking any sort of aggressive action against another motorist, have led to at least a quarter of that difference in fatality rates between the U.S. and Germany.