German state adopts first motorway speed limit

BERLIN (Reuters) - The northern city of Bremen became the first state in Germany to introduce a speed limit on its motorways on Wednesday, breaking a taboo in a country proud of its fast cars.

Mock traffic signs with a speed limit of 120 kilometres per hour are pictured in front of the German Transport Ministry during a protest by Greenpeace in Berlin September 10, 2007 in this file photo. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

The 120 kph (75 mph) limit in Bremen will affect just 60 km of road because the city state is so small.

“This is a good day for traffic safety and we are also sending a signal about protecting the environment and climate,” said Reinhard Loske, Bremen’s environment minister.

“Our goal is to introduce a general speed limit on motorways in the whole of Germany together with other states,” added Loske, a member of the Greens who share power in Bremen with the Social Democrats (SPD).

It is unclear how successful he will be.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the pro-business conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), has ruled out introducing a national speed limit as proposed by her SPD coalition partners.

The SPD voted at a party conference last year to introduce a speed limit of 130 kph (80 mph) on motorways to help reduce CO2 emissions.

Some environmental groups say speed restrictions would cut vehicle CO2 output by 5 percent immediately and by 15 percent in the longer term.

Germany’s motorways were built without speed limits by the Nazis, and since World War Two the influential car industry has lobbied hard against introducing the kind of national rules which are standard practice in other European countries.

Germany, home to luxury carmakers Daimler AG -- which builds Mercedes -- and BMW, has roughly 12,000 km (7,500 miles) of motorway.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Andrew Roche