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Thread: Driving while Talking vs. Drinking and Driving

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Driving while Talking vs. Drinking and Driving

    Some people think it's ok to talk on a cell phone while driving while others think it's a safety hazard. These are opinions.

    How about some scientific facts?

    The Transportation Research Board (an adjunct of the National Academy of Sciences) has published a study that concludes use of a cell phone while driving significantly impairs the average motorist.

    "Ddistracted driver tends to drive slower and have delayed reactions," according to psychology professor David Strayer, the study's author. He says drivers on the phone exercise less initiative in reacting to changing road/traffic conditions, a common accident precursor.

    The study also found that cell phone using motorists tend to drive significantly below the pace of traffic - adding about 20 hours a year to the commute times of those not on the phone stuck behind the rolling roadblock.

    "Overall, cellphone drivers took about 3 percent longer to drive the same highly traffic-clogged route - and about 2 percent longer to drive a medium-congested route - than people who were not on the phone."*

    Strayer says that, all told, the gabblings of the cell phone drivers out there are increasing commute times by 5-10 percent, with that figure apt to rise as more people gabble for longer on their chirping, video-enabled, e-mail capable iPhones and similar souped-up cells.

    Previous studies of driver performance have found that cell phone use while driving impairs reaction times about as much as having a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) of .08 - the the legal threshold defining drunk driving in every state.

    And yet, while the system goes after drunk drivers with the everything the cops and courts can bring to bear, nothing comparable is done about people who (like drunks) choose to engage in an activity that is a demonstrable threat to the safety of other motorists - in addition to being a massive annoyance for those of us not addled by cell phones - who are actually driving when we're behind the wheel of our vehicles.*

    Of course, drinking alcohol before (or while) driving has become extremely politically incorrect. We've adopted a virtual zero-tolerance attitude toward any drinking before driving.

    But if having even a glass of wine over dinner before driving home is bad, then why do we tolerate people smacking away on their cells when it's clear that talking while driving is at least within the same ballpark, risk-wise, as drinking and driving?

    The answer is that unlike booze, cell phones are not politically correct. Quite the opposite. Like "one for the road" back in the '60s and '70s, every other driver has a cell in his hand these days. They have become a necessary accessory. Everyone - from pre-teens to seniors - not only seems to have one but feels the need to be constantly talking on the things. Even when there is nothing especially important (or more to the point, which can't wait until later) that we need to talk about.

    Many of us now spend so much time in our cars that it's simply unthinkable to waste the time when we could be multi-tasking. Doing deals, contacting business associates. Or just warbling away with a friend over a topic of absolutely no importance whatever.

    So, it's hard to get anything done about cell phone use in cars - because unlike drinking and driving (which most of us don't do) most of us do have cells and a great many of us very much want to use them while driving.

    All of which proves that "safety" is, at best, an arbitrary Decider of what is and isn't permissible behind the wheel. Twenty years ago, driving drunk was considered funny. (Go and rent the original "Cannonball Run" and see what I mean). Today, it's just about the worst possible sin one can commit behind the wheel.

    Maybe in another 20 years, we'll have come around on talking while driving, too.

  2. #2
    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    There was a law past not to long ago here on this mater. It is now illegal for anyone to talk or text on a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. Only exceptions are, of course Da Police, businesses that rely on direct communications. They will tag and bag you. My daughter got pulled over a while back for what looked like, in the cops eye, she was talking on a cell. All she was doing was leaning on the door sill, singing with the radio. They're hungry here...

  3. #3
    I have not read the study in question, but I am curious about the methodology used. (We all know how 'studies' can be used or misused--recall the studies which supported the 55mph NMSL as having saved lives)

    Personally my perception is that if you can't talk and drive simultaneously you probably shouldn't be behind the wheel. I'm not aware of any studies performed or legislation considered with regard to drivers carrying on conversations with their passengers, or even any concern about that as a safety issue.

    Certainly cell phones can be distracting in that dialing, looking through a contacts list or--heaven forbid--texting require one to look away from the road AND usually involve at least one hand off the wheel. However I don't see how talking on a hands-free device could be so much more dangerous than speaking with a passenger. It's been argued that the passenger is aware of driving conditions unlike a person on the other end of a phone conversation, but of what relevance is that to the driver's ability to react?

    Another factor in the issue is that mobile cell calls are often instrumental in citizens aiding the police to apprehend criminals, hit-and-run drivers, etc.

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    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    My personal encounters with Cell Phone on the roads , have been irritating, to say the least. As far back as the '90s, cell phones have been a growing problem. I have come up behind drivers that were on their phones, while merging with freeway traffic. Only to become so frustrated that I would want to 'Help' them out with the Merging process. In other words, "GET OFF THE DAMN PHONE AND DRIVE"! Ever try to merge when someone is going 35, and traffic is moving at 65-70? I have been rear ended twice by someone on a cell. Following people on the Highway while they're on the phone seem to speed up and slow down.

    In our State they have done studies concerning traffic behavior while on a cell phone. They have done statistics on accidents and have found that quite a few have been caused while being on a cell, reaching for a cell, dialing a cell, and texting on a cell. There was enough to bring it up to our Law Makers. That's when they passed a law regarding the usage of cell phones.

    One other exception on the usage, that I did not mention in my previous post, is that you are allowed to use a "Blue Tooth", or a "Hands Free" type device.

    It has been found that when on a cell held up to your ear, that your head seems to stop turning. That can make it kind of rough to see traffic or kids that might be coming out from a side street, driveway, or behind a parked car. It's a full time job operating a vehicle now days. There are enough distractions out there.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KentAZ View Post
    I have not read the study in question, but I am curious about the methodology used. (We all know how 'studies' can be used or misused--recall the studies which supported the 55mph NMSL as having saved lives)

    Personally my perception is that if you can't talk and drive simultaneously you probably shouldn't be behind the wheel. I'm not aware of any studies performed or legislation considered with regard to drivers carrying on conversations with their passengers, or even any concern about that as a safety issue.

    Certainly cell phones can be distracting in that dialing, looking through a contacts list or--heaven forbid--texting require one to look away from the road AND usually involve at least one hand off the wheel. However I don't see how talking on a hands-free device could be so much more dangerous than speaking with a passenger. It's been argued that the passenger is aware of driving conditions unlike a person on the other end of a phone conversation, but of what relevance is that to the driver's ability to react?

    Another factor in the issue is that mobile cell calls are often instrumental in citizens aiding the police to apprehend criminals, hit-and-run drivers, etc.

    In principle, you're right. The problem is that, in practice, the attentiveness/skill of the average American driver is so low already that adding a cell to the equation (or any distraction; it's not the cell per se) makes matters even worse.

    The real issue - which no one's going to address - is the fact that we let almost anyone "drive." And we focus most of enforcement efforts on trumped-up/BS "technical fouls" such as driving faster than an arbitrarily posted number on a sign (speeding) while doing next to nothing about, for example, the addled old geezer doing 37 in a 55 or the breeder Moo in her Smoovee yalping away on her cell as she blasts through a red light and right into an oncoming motorcycle.

  6. #6
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    In principle, you're right. The problem is that, in practice, the attentiveness/skill of the average American driver is so low already that adding a cell to the equation (or any distraction; it's not the cell per se) makes matters even worse.

    The real issue - which no one's going to address - is the fact that we let almost anyone "drive." And we focus most of enforcement efforts on trumped-up/BS "technical fouls" such as driving faster than an arbitrarily posted number on a sign (speeding) while doing next to nothing about, for example, the addled old geezer doing 37 in a 55 or the breeder Moo in her Smoovee yalping away on her cell as she blasts through a red light and right into an oncoming motorcycle.
    The number of times I have been bumped into by morons weaving along the sidewalk whilst talking on their mobiles has always made me doubt the ability of the average driver to both talk and drive safely. Personally, once I am moving at over seventy/eighty I do not like even being spoken to.

    Ken.
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    Ken.
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  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    The number of times I have been bumped into by morons weaving along the sidewalk whilst talking on their mobiles has always made me doubt the ability of the average driver to both talk and drive safely. Personally, once I am moving at over seventy/eighty I do not like even being spoken to.

    Ken.
    Exactly!

    Anyone who actually drives (or rides!) will understand this - and agree.

    And of course, the (few) good drivers self-police. They don't yalp on their phones to the detriment of their ability to control the car.

    I would not have an issue with cells (or other "distractions") if training/licensing standards were such that we had a better class of drivers out there. My belief is that a skilled driver (natural ability plus some training/experience plus some good judgment) can handle occasionally making a call or eating while driving, etc.

    But so many of the people out there are, at best, marginal drivers under the best circumstances; give them a distraction and they become truly dangerous to others, as well as themselves.

    Just the other day, coming up Bent Mountain (video posted earlier) I found myself stuck behind a breeder in her minivan in the left lane, exactly matching the (low) speed of the car in the right lane - creating a rolling roadblock.

    Luckily, I was in the GTI - and when I had a clear shot, I punched it and passed the minivan - but I had to cross the double yellow and momentarily dart into the opposite lane of the road. No one was coming and I had clear sight lines and the pass was quickly and safely executed - but if a cop saw me, I'd get a ticket for "reckless driving" while the Breeder Moo in her &*%$@### minivan, blocking the left lane, would trundle on unmolested, happily yarbling away on her ^&$#@!!! cell!

  8. #8
    I would have no problem with legislation limiting cell use by drivers to hands-free units. I try to never talk on the cell in the car without one--I do agree that it's potentially dangerous to tie up one hand by holding the phone and it seems intuitive that doing so would tend to make one less likely to turn their head.

    Texting while driving should clearly be outlawed, IMO--that is just insane. I recently purchased a cell for my 15-year-old niece (who will be getting her driving permit later this year) and put her on my plan. I told her that if I ever find out that she is texting while driving I will take the phone away, period.

    Eric, I agree with you that drivers in this country are undereducated and underqualified to drive. Here in Arizona when you obtain a driver's license in many cases it's good for 20-30 years before it must be renewed, which means no testing or any other check on driving ability for all that time.

    I've seen people holding their cell to their ear while looking out the side window for extended periods of time, obviously looking for their destination with the coaching of the person on the other end of the call. So there are indeed some folks that have enough trouble just driving much less adding a cell to the mix.

    However, should everyone be penalized because of the incompetence of some? That's a tough question. The knee-jerk answer would be "No," but if the problem is shown to be widespread to a significant degree than perhaps it might be justified.

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    " I agree with you that drivers in this country are undereducated and underqualified to drive. Here in Arizona when you obtain a driver's license in many cases it's good for 20-30 years before it must be renewed, which means no testing or any other check on driving ability for all that time. "

    I've got no issue with long-term renewal, provided the initial licensing procedure was fairly rigorous and also that the individual has no at-fault accidents during that time.

    In VA, we have to go through a renewal process every ten years that is just another means to extract money from us. The cursory eye test is the only thing they test that really has anything to do with checking one's ability to competently drive a car.

    What is the point of making a 35 year old come in for The DMV Experience? Etc.

    "I've seen people holding their cell to their ear while looking out the side window for extended periods of time, obviously looking for their destination with the coaching of the person on the other end of the call. So there are indeed some folks that have enough trouble just driving much less adding a cell to the mix."

    However, should everyone be penalized because of the incompetence of some? That's a tough question. The knee-jerk answer would be "No," but if the problem is shown to be widespread to a significant degree than perhaps it might be justified.


    I oppose least common denominator legislation that assumes we're all idiots (or incapable) because some people are idiots/incapable.

    Here's a better way, in my opinion:

    No harassment by the authorities until you actually do create an objective problem as demonstrated by an at-fault accident. At which point, severe consequences - including mandatory evaluation of driving skills and re-testing before license privileges are restored.

    This could encompass everything - from "speeding" to texting.

    If, for example, you wreck going around a curve, then almost by definition you were carrying excessive speed for conditions, your ability, etc. I find this much more reasonable than issuing people expensive fines merely because they happened to be caught driving faster than a number posted on a sign - when their driving may have been perfectly safe and the vehicle under control, etc.

    Same as regards cells and so on. If you hit someone because you weren't paying attention - or more accurately, weren't able to pay sufficient attention to the road while also using a phone (or whatever) - then you get fined/prosecuted, etc.

    But why should everyone be hassled? Just as some people have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, there are people who can talk and drive (or eat and drive) better than most people can drive with both hands on the wheel.

    What we seem to be doing is assuming everyone's an idiot - or incompetent - and so treating them - except when it comes to issuing that license in the first place.

    Then we treat everyone as though they're competent and not idiotic - even though probably every third person is exactly that!

  10. #10
    Eric:

    I've got no issue with long-term renewal, provided the initial licensing procedure was fairly rigorous and also that the individual has no at-fault accidents during that time.

    In VA, we have to go through a renewal process every ten years that is just another means to extract money from us. The cursory eye test is the only thing they test that really has anything to do with checking one's ability to competently drive a car.

    What is the point of making a 35 year old come in for The DMV Experience? Etc.
    Good points. I was thinking of Arizona's significant senior population. Some of these folks can barely walk much less drive.

    I oppose least common denominator legislation that assumes we're all idiots (or incapable) because some people are idiots/incapable.

    Here's a better way, in my opinion:

    No harassment by the authorities until you actually do create an objective problem as demonstrated by an at-fault accident. At which point, severe consequences - including mandatory evaluation of driving skills and re-testing before license privileges are restored.
    Makes sense to me.

    If, for example, you wreck going around a curve, then almost by definition you were carrying excessive speed for conditions, your ability, etc. I find this much more reasonable than issuing people expensive fines merely because they happened to be caught driving faster than a number posted on a sign - when their driving may have been perfectly safe and the vehicle under control, etc.
    I agree. Don't get me started on speed limits--I think they're arbitrary and essentially unnecessary, especially on freeways and other limited access roads (e.g., the Autobahn).

    You're in Virginia? Uh, don't they ban radar detectors there? (Not that any of us would actually intentionally exceed the posted speed limits...)

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    "You're in Virginia? Uh, don't they ban radar detectors there? (Not that any of us would actually intentionally exceed the posted speed limits...) [/QUOTE]

    If the government plays dirty pool, so do I !

    It actually works out to my benefit. Since detectors are illegal, the cops assume most people don't have them and so there's less instant-on and other harder to evade radar.

    I use a V1 religiously!

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    "You're in Virginia? Uh, don't they ban radar detectors there? (Not that any of us would actually intentionally exceed the posted speed limits...)

    If the government plays dirty pool, so do I !

    It actually works out to my benefit. Since detectors are illegal, the cops assume most people don't have them and so there's less instant-on and other harder to evade radar.

    I use a V1 religiously!
    I'm dating myself here, but I owned one of the first Escort models made back in the early 80's. I was living in Michigan at the time, and the state legislature had (illegally) banned their use by very cleverly invoking a 1930's(!) law prohibiting citizens from using radio receivers operating on frequencies designated specifically for police use in their vehicles. (Crooks were driving around listening into police dispatches and then going to the other side of town and committing burglaries) The rationale was that radar detectors fell under the category of radio receivers operating on frequencies designated for police use.

    The problem was that that part of the spectrum which police radar guns utilized was NOT specifically designated for police use but rather was simply the frequency range designated by the FCC for microwave radio devices regardless of the application. A Michigan lawyer deliberately got pulled over with his detector in full view with the intent of challenging the law in court--he was ticketed. When the government discerned his intent they voided his ticket(!) to quash his attempt.

    To add insult to injury, the police were actually confiscating drivers' radar detectors, which was completely bogus because the law did not declare possession of a detector (receiver)--even in a vehicle--as illegal, only the operation of such.

    And here is the final crazy side note to the story--the 1930's law had a provision which exempted licensed ham radio operators. So if you had a ham license you were allowed to operate a radar detector in your car(!)

    I knew that the law was illegal and so had no qualms about using my Escort for years before the ban was finally overturned. I kept a hollowed out Kleenex box taped to my dashboard, underneath which was the Escort. And you're correct--when they don't expect you to possess one it actually gives you an edge.

    Nowadays, of course, our wonderful state of Arizona (my current home) has contracted with the Australian company Redflex and thus we are blessed with photo radar units (both fixed and mobile) on our State highways. It's $180.00 for 11 miles or more over the limit, with about $78.00 of that going to Redflex. Nice racket, eh?

    The good news is that the State decided not to renew the contract so the cameras on the highways are being deactivated on July 15. Unfortunately quite a few municipalities in AZ have also deployed the cameras. There is a petition drive to get the issue of photo radar on the ballot this November. In EVERY state where the voters were allowed to decide, photo radar has been banned (surprise, surprise).
    Last edited by KentAZ; 06-21-2010 at 08:52 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member J. ZIMM's Avatar
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    [quote=KentAZ;124189]



    Good points. I was thinking of Arizona's significant senior population. Some of these folks can barely walk much less drive.

    I find this to be one of those topics that one can see both sides of the fence. But I do question the statement about "old folks". What does walking have to do with driving? Have you ever heard of the "DISABLED"? Some of these folks, whether they be old or young, have disabilities that makes them Physically Challenged. That is why some cars have had hand controls installed. Folks that have Hand Controls in their vehicles, most likely, have had to take a test to show their ability to operate a Motor Vehicle safely. We do in this State, and it is so noted on their DL. Just to show how well you are coordinated, most car rental companies do offer vehicles that do have hand controls. Rent one of them, and see how well you do behind the wheel, just using the hand controls ONLY. Do all the other functions required. Operate Turn Signals, Headlights, Dimmer Switch, Cruise Control, and any other control so equiped. The highway is no problem. Try it in the city in traffic. Try it without using your lower part of your body. Now there's the challenge. There are a lot of abled bodied people out there that should not be behind the wheel of any vehicle.

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KentAZ View Post
    I'm dating myself here, but I owned one of the first Escort models made back in the early 80's. I was living in Michigan at the time, and the state legislature had (illegally) banned their use by very cleverly invoking a 1930's(!) law prohibiting citizens from using radio receivers operating on frequencies designated specifically for police use in their vehicles. (Crooks were driving around listening into police dispatches and then going to the other side of town and committing burglaries) The rationale was that radar detectors fell under the category of radio receivers operating on frequencies designated for police use.

    The problem was that that part of the spectrum which police radar guns utilized was NOT specifically designated for police use but rather was simply the frequency range designated by the FCC for microwave radio devices regardless of the application. A Michigan lawyer deliberately got pulled over with his detector in full view with the intent of challenging the law in court--he was ticketed. When the government discerned his intent they voided his ticket(!) to quash his attempt.

    To add insult to injury, the police were actually confiscating drivers' radar detectors, which was completely bogus because the law did not declare possession of a detector (receiver)--even in a vehicle--as illegal, only the operation of such.

    And here is the final crazy side note to the story--the 1930's law had a provision which exempted licensed ham radio operators. So if you had a ham license you were allowed to operate a radar detector in your car(!)

    I knew that the law was illegal and so had no qualms about using my Escort for years before the ban was finally overturned. I kept a hollowed out Kleenex box taped to my dashboard, underneath which was the Escort. And you're correct--when they don't expect you to possess one it actually gives you an edge.

    Nowadays, of course, our wonderful state of Arizona (my current home) has contracted with the Australian company Redflex and thus we are blessed with photo radar units (both fixed and mobile) on our State highways. It's $180.00 for 11 miles or more over the limit, with about $78.00 of that going to Redflex. Nice racket, eh?

    The good news is that the State decided not to renew the contract so the cameras on the highways are being deactivated on July 15. Unfortunately quite a few municipalities in AZ have also deployed the cameras. There is a petition drive to get the issue of photo radar on the ballot this November. In EVERY state where the voters were allowed to decide, photo radar has been banned (surprise, surprise).
    That Kleenex idea... had the same thought!

    VA is one of the two remaining states that continues to (illegally, contrary to a Supreme Court ruling) prohibit the use of radar detectors. Not only will they impose a fat fine if they catch you with one, they will seize your detector, too. As the V1 costs $400, that is quite a hit.

    So, I practice stealth. Rather than use the factory suction cup mount - which makes the unit much more visible because the power cord can be seen distinctly from a distance (which focuses the cop's attention on your vehicle), I use Velcro to mount the unit to the dash. This gives it a much lower profile; it is much harder to see the unit - especially when the vehicle is moving. I have tested it out and found that even if you have excellent vision and are looking for it, that is, focusing on a specific car to see whether there is a detector on the dash (and of course, most cops aren't doing that) it is virtually impossible to see anything from more than about 20 yards out. The detector will announce the presence of a cop long before then, giving me plenty of time to snatch the unit off the dash, and put it out of view.

    I have been running this way for almost two years now with no close calls or problems. The detector continues to work marvelously and has helped me avoid getting a single ticket during that time - and saved me from what surely would have been at least three major tickets!

  15. #15
    Eric:

    The problem with the Kleenex box was that the display was not visible--I had to rely solely on the audible alerts.

    Of course now there is LIDAR and photo radar added to the mix. I understand that the Valentine has an alert for the laser guns but that you're counting on picking up the signal when vehicles ahead of you are targeted because once the beam hits your vehicle it's too late(?)

    Photo radar is really a joke unless you're asleep at the wheel, especially with regard to the fixed locations. Once you know where they are it's essentially like encountering a high-tech speed bump--you slow down temporarily and then it's back to the races. Of course it, too, is really unconstitutional because it doesn't allow the accused due process.

    I've read that there are detector detectors--units that the police utilize to sniff out the presence of a detector. Do the police in Virginia have those? I would imagine that the Valentine has some type of counter-measure built in.

    You know, I like high tech gear and all, but the radar scenario really boils down to a silly game. One of these days I'm gonna visit Germany, rent a fast Bimmer and enjoy the Autobahn without fear of a speeding ticket...
    Last edited by KentAZ; 06-24-2010 at 04:17 AM.

  16. #16
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KentAZ View Post
    Eric:

    One of these days I'm gonna visit Germany, rent a fast Bimmer and enjoy the Autobahn without fear of a speeding ticket...

    When you do, have fun, but remember to keep a good eye out for the various speed restrictions in place on many stretches of the 'bahns.

    Ken.
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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    When you do, have fun, but remember to keep a good eye out for the various speed restrictions in place on many stretches of the 'bahns.

    Ken.
    Really? You're killing my fantasy!

  18. #18
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KentAZ View Post
    Really? You're killing my fantasy!
    Some sections of the Autobahn have been speed restricted for years, and the city of Bremen in northern Germany has introduced a speed limit on all of its Autobahn areas.

    Bremen has just 60 km (about 37 miles) of roadway within its jurisdiction and this move is a frightening baby-step for the German Green party (Die Grünen) and the Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands). Both groups oppose unrestricted speeds on the Autobahn and also share the power in Bremen. Thankfully, at this time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to rule out a NSL for the complete Autobahn network.

    So, if you do go and put the pedal to the metal - make sure you are doiong it in a safe area. Irrespective of whether or not there is a speed limit in force the Polizei wil stop and fine (heavily) anyone they think is driving recklessly.

    Ken.
    Last edited by Ken; 06-26-2010 at 05:01 AM. Reason: Typo.
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