By on February 20, 2019

While California has some of the best driving roads in the country, large swaths of the state suffer from serious congestion issues. For years, the preferred solution was to bolster public transit in San Francisco and Los Angeles while simultaneously establishing high-speed rail lines between the two areas. Unfortunately, costs ballooned and support for the project dwindled.

Legislators are now left with a problem. Abandoning the rail program means settling for partially completed lines incapable of transporting passengers directly between LA and the Bay Area. California needs a different solution, and Sen. John Moorlach (R-CA) has a doozy of a proposition: highway lanes with no speed limit.

Effectively, an American Autobahn. 

Senate Bill 319 suggests adding two additional lanes to north and southbound Interstate 5 and Route 99 without limitations to vehicle velocity. While the bill doesn’t expressly state how far these lanes will extend, Automobile claims they would run from Stockton to Bakersfield — a distance of about 240 miles via I-5 or 230 miles via CA-99. This puts the lanes on roughly the same route as the costly rail line.

“If Sacramento is serious about allowing Californians to travel between Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and High-Speed Rail will take too long to build, let’s construct four additional lanes with no maximum speed limit to provide for high speed on a safe road,” Moorlach suggested.

While Automobile cites an addendum to SB-319 suggesting that speeds in excess of 100 mph would be punishable by hefty fines, the inclusion stems from existing vehicle code. The bill is clearly aimed at unlimited speeds and will seek exemptions for those lanes, which Moorlach said would be separated.

Critics have complained that California would never go for unlimited speed limits and suggested that the proposal is dangerous. However, statistics have repeatedly proven that Germany’s motorways are less perilous than their U.S. equivalents. Even in the case of the Autobahn, the elevated number of high-speed crashes rarely mange to supersede the number of fatalities witnessed or rural back roads in a given year.

Truth be told, the big hurdle for Senate Bill 319 will be convincing California that it won’t hurt the environment. Trains are seen as the greener option. While unquestionably true when hauling a full load, the matter becomes cloudy when rail lines don’t see a lot of business. Every empty seat means a bigger carbon footprint for those still riding, especially when the train is dependent upon fossil fuels (which includes electric trains sourcing energy from coal- or gas-powered plants).

That’s where SB-319 has an opportunity. Despite spending a fortune on rail lines over the last two decades, Southern California has seen car ownership (and its population) explode and mass transit decline. L.A. Metro, the region’s largest transit provider, said bus ridership fell by 23 percent between 2009 to 2017. Meanwhile, rail usage has increased, though not at a rate that keeps pace with all the state’s new drivers.

By minimizing vehicle idle time, the bill proposes a reduction in overall emissions for the roadways using the added lanes. In fact, it proposes using the California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to build them.

While we like the idea, this kind of legislation has a habit of getting modified until the most interesting aspects are removed. If SB-319 does pass, the no-speed-limit angle will likely be altered. But we’re not abandoning all hope.

[Image: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock]

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106 Comments on “California Congestion Bill Could Result in American Autobahn...”


  • avatar
    JimC2

    Here’s a doozy of an idea- enforce left lane laws.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Exactly what I was going to say. Tired of getting stuck behind someone going 72 in a 70mph zone.

    • 0 avatar
      psychoboy

      A high speed autobahn style road will never go over in Cali.

      However, a Prius-only 2-lane highway would appeal to every single Californian. The smug will have their own road, and the left lanes of the other roads will be virtually empty.

      • 0 avatar
        civicjohn

        We could have a new source of entertainment from traffic helicopters. Maybe they should start their own streaming channel for $4.99 per month.

      • 0 avatar
        Yurpean

        While there might be enough Prius and hippies around here, California is and always was a passionate car state. We have the best cars far and wide, the car culture here is second to none despite having only one manufacturer here as of recent (Tesla).

        People here have money and influence. This might very well happen.

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          “While there might be enough Prius and hippies around here, California is and always was a passionate car state. We have the best cars far and wide, the car culture here is second to none despite having only one manufacturer here as of recent (Tesla). ”

          SHHH ! .

          You’re interupting the mindless ranting of ignorant haters…..

          -Nate
          (Iron Bottom Motoring Tour attendee)

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      “Here’s a doozy” enforce HOV lanes where every legal car, 2 or more persons in vehicle, has to travel at least 9 mph over the speed limit ( that way avoiding a ticket of 10 over) and anyone traveling in HOV lane illegally ( single driver) and tailgating the legal vehicle gets an automatic careless driving or reckless driving ticket depending on how aggressive tailgator is and if there are any children in legal vehicle! Nashville needs this!

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        I recently drove down 40 through Nashville eastbound at 3:00AM is was very peaceful.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        It’s funny ~ I use the HOV lanes whenever I have a passenger, recently I was WB on the i105 freeway in the HOV lane and passed an L.A. Airports cop car, I was going 85 +, he wasn’t in the HOV lane and has a passenger, he glared at me as I blew past him and jumped into the HOV lane and followed me closely so I slowed down to about 70 (limit is 65 I think) and when I got near my destination has followed me to the right as if to give me a ticket, right until I went down an off ramp, then he sped up and continued on .

        Either enforce the laws and don’t hassle the safe drivers who are helping keep traffic moving in urban messes .

        Sheesh .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Asdf

    One oft-heard argument from proponents of the war on cars is that adding more road capacity only leads to more traffic and increases congestion. The obvious solution to this problem is to ban roads. Problem solved.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Even though I am a proponent of public transit, I have had this very argument with urban planners on multiple occasions. The problem with their ‘more roads brings more cars’ contention is that the number of cars is not infinite, it is limited by multiple factors.

      Yes, if driving is easier, then more people will drive. But only up to a finite number.

      In this instance, I can’t decide which I support as there is no information on a) how much one mile of highway costs to construct compared to one mile of highspeed track, b) the actual construction time for one mile of highway versus one mile of track, c) the comparable maintenance costs, d) the amount of traffic on a daily basis between the two centres.

      I would possibly propose (gasp!) the building of a toll highway whose tolls will be used to offset the cost of building a rail link.

      • 0 avatar
        Lockstops

        Look at all the empty roads in the 40’s and 50’s. The roads did not fill up then.

        • 0 avatar

          Is this sarcasm? The roads absolutely did fill up. They were built, which then altered the original intention of what a suburb was to be (originally suburbs were seen as a utopian community that would have quick and direct public transit access to the city core as part of its development plan), which then directly translated into many more single-occupant vehicles travelling on roads. After all, why build expensive public transit when its in everybody’s interest to have people buy cars for each household? The roads were there, so why not?

          It’s been well proven that building more lanes on multi-lane highways does not solve congestion problems, it just adds costs. Many cities have tried it and see the results. Lots of people don’t drive the LA-SF route today because of the fear of congestion. Decrease that fear and you’ll have more cars on the road and you’ll be right back where you started, but having spent billions to add the lanes. Not a solution.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            All those cars represent economic activity and economic freedom. They’re not a cost. They’re a benefit, unless you’re a complete misanthrope.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        HS rail in CA was a boondoggle and all the original sponsors bailed a long time ago as the Brown regime violated every major tenet of the initiative.

        Brown refused to build it up the coast because he was unwilling to go ag/ his base – instead he tried to sent it where it never belonged – up the central valley where the people had no clout.

        Brown planned to build it it thru 3 major faults, something no engineering firm supported. And even if built it would take longer and cost more per trip than flying even if the cost didn’t double again.

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        Calm down Arthur with that Toll BS, as someone who pays between $400 and $500 bucks a months for the privilege to drive the fine bridges and tunnels and tolls roads of metro NY I have to say be careful for what you wish for. I think every toll ever proposed went like this, Once the road/bridge/tunnel is built we will take down the tolls, NY / NJ has built 2 new bridges in the last 50 years, mainly in the last 2 years but I am pretty sure the tolls for the last 50 years have paid for the bridges and tunnels that were built already. Most of my toll money goes towards public transportation, the NY subways , buses, crappy train service, some large buildings in NYC, corruption and pensions at the Port Authority of NY/NJ , referred to as the 51 state they are so independent, once the tolls go on, they almost never go off. I could live with all the cost, corruption … of my toll money if the roads were at least decent that I drive over. They are not.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          @Seth1065: I use the most expensive toll road in the world on a daily basis. Highway 407 across the GTA. And each and every day, I curse our previous Premier (Mike Harris) who ‘leased’ it to a private consortium, with no restrictions on how often, or how much they could increase the tolls.

          There have been historically a number of tolls that were removed once the construction costs were paid off. In Ontario the Burlington Skyway was toll based from 1958 to 1973.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            Reality check :

            California’s drivers & taxpayers paid for HOV ‘Diamond’ lanes for anyone with two or more passengers to use, a couple three years ago they were given to a private consortium who only allows those who buy a transponder and pays tolls to use them .

            Once we get tolls in America they never go down nor stop .

            They claimed Motocycles would be free but they weren’t until a guy I know sued the state and consortium to make Motos free of charges, they still charge the police Motos though….

            -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I saw it in Texas. They widened the Katy freeway into to about 6 lanes, now it’s backed even further. A couple of other highways I can’t remember their names. They build the highways, then then put in more houses, with more stores and more traffic. It’s kind of a chicken and the egg thing, too many people living in an area. What is the best way to relive congestion?

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Assuming you meant relieve congestion….

        Ditch zoning and land use laws altogether. The majority of people will cluster tighter, once the cost per square foot of residential, and commercial, space drops like a rock. Leaving more space for those who want more space around them.

        Once past a certain density, there’s a Whole Foods at the bottom of every other tower. And a bar. And one’s job. And free delivery of everything. And plenty of largely empty space not too far away, rather than endless sprawls of lowish density dumps with insane traffic between them.

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    If I was dictator—to the extent possible, I’d give tractor-trailers their own barrier-separated express lanes in interstate highway medians–with exits every 15 miles or whatever.

    Separating traffic by size improves flow and makes things safer by keeping lane-weaving car/SUV drivers away from rigs.

    Having someone in the far left lane going 100, with a daydreaming driver 2 miles ahead going 65 with the right 2 lanes filled with rigs is not a good combo.

    To stereotype, many Americans are too selfish, not considerate enough, or just plain stink at driving to have German speeds. (though I love the Autobahn and wish it could happen here)

    And German license standards are much more stringent/more expensive to get a license and more expensive to maintain a car.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I agree 100% with your first 3 sentences. And your final sentence.
      As for your 4th sentence, too provocative for me to comment on (publicly).

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      My thought is all the junk on Californian roads. Do they even have vehicle inspections? So many are unsafe to drive at 30mph.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      The freight should be on the rails, not plugging up the highways.

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        “the freight should be on the rails” you have the “just in time” (jit) delivery system for that, everything arrives at just the right time at the plants for when it’s needed thus not having to store excess parts in nearby ware houses, kind of like alleviating the middle man and causing more movement of parts than is necessary!

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “The freight should be on the rails, not plugging up the highways.”
        — Rails don’t go to the back doors of every business. Freight HAS to run on the highways to reach their final destination.

        And there are some circumstances where trucks are still faster than trains

    • 0 avatar
      apl

      The New Jersey Turnpike has a section where it splits and one of roadways is for cars only. The other roadway allows trucks and cars. After observing many cars obstruct and cut off the trucks, it is for certain the truck drivers wish it was a truck only roadway.

    • 0 avatar
      apl

      The New Jersey Turnpike has a section where it splits and one of roadways is for cars only. The other roadway allows trucks and cars. After observing many cars obstruct and cut off the trucks, it is for certain the truck drivers wish it was a truck only roadway.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Germany’s autobahns aren’t safer because they have no speed limits — in fact a large part of the network does have speed limits. It’s because Germans are trained to be better drivers than Americans are. As are the French, the Brits, and the list goes on.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      ” Germans are trained to be better drivers than Americans are”

      Yup! And the Auto Bahn Polizei are not tolerant of bad drivers, tailgating and lane hogging.

      The US military even mandates a driver reorientation school all new arrivals must attend before getting their car registered on base/post.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Correct. I have been to Germany and driven on the Autobahn – the unlimited part is actually limited to certain areas and times. And yes the drivers understand what they are doing due to strict laws and training. The left lane is for passing ONLY. Trucks stay in the right lane ONLY. Everyone follows these rules, seems high speed highway driving in particular is taken very seriously over there.

    • 0 avatar

      And also German cars comply with TUV and fully inspected every year and German police is dead serious about drivers following traffic code e.g. not tailgating. The last thing we need is poorly maintained cars going unlimited speed with dead shock absorbers.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      I agree with NeilM, never been there (Germany) but read how drivers move over when they get the flashing lights from a faster approaching car! It’s the norm to do so! In USA most slow down and feel agitated and offended to have to humbly obey!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Ironic.

    On the SR99 leg between Bakersfield and Stockton, lies Visalia, Fresno, and a few other neglected inland metro areas. Driving on SR99 in those areas is depressing today, with the roadside landscaping either dead or dying, trash strewn everywhere, and grafitti rampant. This is especially hurtful since I remember how those areas were vital, growing areas before Environmentalists cut off so much Ag Water…and before Mexico was allowed to move to El Norte.

    I5 is similar, but different. No metro areas lie upon the route, but the roadside facilities are atrocious. Public restrooms in the rest areas are stinky and filthy–with no toilet paper, bring your own. The facilities at commercial restaurants is generally somewhat better, but some are awful, and In-N-Out Burger restrooms are ALWAYS superior.

    CA will not build an autobahn. It cannot. The various interest groups will issue so many legal challenges that construction will become impossible.

    CA once did great things…great schools, great aqueducts, great roads, great cities, great oil production, and great manufacturing. Those days are long over.

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      “CA once did great things…great schools, great aqueducts, great roads, great cities, great oil production, and great manufacturing. Those days are long over.”

      Oh, I thought they meant to build California for Mexicans, and now they were ready to hand it over? I thought that was the plan all along, it seemed so clear.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        “Oh, I thought they meant to build California for Mexicans, and now they were ready to hand it over? I thought that was the plan all along, it seemed so clear.”
        — It seems you’ve forgotten that the US stole California from Mexico.

        • 0 avatar
          Dartdude

          Dude, Learn some history!

        • 0 avatar
          -Nate

          ” — It seems you’ve forgotten that the US stole California from Mexico.”

          Contrary to popular belief, we’re never going to give it back so nothing to worry about .

          I wish Mexico would sell us the Western half of Baja California, of course we’d spoil it but it’s a wonderful place full of adventure and natural beauty .

          -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      R Henry

      Dead right.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Fourth-generation, 65-year-old Californian here; can confirm. My once-beautiful state has been turned into a trash heap; breaks my heart. Still, there are some areas that are, if not pristine, still beautiful and relatively trash free. Born and raised here, I’ll stick it out until the end (well, I have a significant financial stake to look after, too).

      We had a significant litter problem back in the ’50s–thanks McDonalds!–but after a decade-long campaign we got things cleaned-up for a while. The , er, ‘new arrivals’ haven’t observed the norms.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Unlimited speed would never work here on roads with actual traffic on them. Maybe in a few very low population states with arrow straight roads, but not CA.

    Aside from the fact that most American drivers are terrible, who’s going to want to PAY to maintain these roads to keep the safe for cars at 150mph+? Have you seen what German road surfaces look like? Lousy American road surfaces that are mostly annoying at 70mph easily become dangerous at 150mph. I can already see the first 911 GT2RS hitting a pothole and going flying.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    This will never pass, the amount of pollution an ICE vehicle makes at autobahn speeds is considerable. Besides , with legalized marijuana everyone’s fine going 40.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    Fuel burn increases proportional to the cube of velocity and gallons/100 or whatever increases proportional to the square.
    How exactly is increasing the speed limit going to reduce CO2 emissions?

    • 0 avatar
      Lockstops

      You get to where you’re going so fast that you don’t have TIME to emit lots of CO2. Duh.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The idea is that a car going 100 mph is more efficient than one idling in traffic. Getting 14 mpg is better than 0 mpg while creeping along at 0-4 mph.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Fuel burn in cars doesn’t go up by the speed cubed. Think about that one for a second- your average sedan that gets 30-35mpg on the EPA highway cycle, which is mostly driving 50-ish mph, would get about 250mpg driving 25mph and about 10mpg going 75.

      • 0 avatar
        brn

        You’re correct, but the increase in air resistance is not linear. The hockey stick turns up in the 45 – 65 mph range. Keep increasing the speeds and the air resistance goes up quicker than people think. It takes a lot of fuel to overcome that.

        Add Lightness’ primary point is is valid.

      • 0 avatar
        civicjohn

        JimC2, and it’s not a linear savings in fuel when the car is not moving. Maybe one of your vehicles has quasi-MPG reporting?

        Check it out sometime. The average MPG rises while while waiting in traffic. From my singular perspective, MPG average consumption also occurs when you aren’t moving. Maybe I’m agreeing with you, not sure. But ICE cars still burn fuel when not moving, otherwise why would many cars/ trucks have “start/ stop”? It appears to game the EPA city cycle.

        • 0 avatar
          civicjohn

          JimC2, my bad. I meant a “liner loss in savings”, not gain, sorry.

          • 0 avatar
            civicjohn

            “The average MPG rises while waiting in traffic”, is not what I meant to say, because it certainly does lower, I meant to post “The average MPG lowers while while waiting in traffic.”

            Jeez, I cannot write a cohesive post. My bad!

            Sorry moderators! I mean no harm.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            No worries, @civicjohn, I knew whatcha meant.

            Glad you could use my post as a springboard for talking about mpg gauges and real-time fuel consumption too. Not everybody watches those and some cars don’t have them, but watching them in a variety of driving (slow driving, fast driving, city driving, traffic jams) really brings home a lot of complicated subtleties that most people poorly understand- the term “most people” includes consumers and legislators!

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The average car gets its best fuel economy at about 35-40mph steady speed. This has the car in its highest (or near highest) gear with no effective wind resistance. Slower is worse because the gearing has the engine turning higher revs for less distance while faster builds wind drag which rises logarithmically, the faster you go. If you can achieve 30mpg at 40mph, for instance, you might get 26mpg at 60 and dropping to 22 or less at 80. The Coefficient of Drag (CoD) calculations determine exactly at what rate the fuel economy drops with speed. The output power of the engine is also a factor as that drag will stress a smaller engine more than it would a larger one. A larger engine drinks more from the outset but would see less reduction in economy compared to the smaller one.

          So you are right, civicjohn, but it’s also not as simple as you imply.

          • 0 avatar
            civicjohn

            JimC2 and Vulpine, glad you understood my posts. While the Feds are looking at implementing more electronic nannies, maybe they should consider real time reporting of MPG.

            My little Civic was the first car I owned that had one. I’m certainly no hyper-miler, but it’s amazing to see what happens (especially after a full tank) if you driving around town, doing a steady 45 mph, or 65 vs. 75 on the interstate. It really opened up my mind.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            RE: ‘MPG gauges’ :

            ? Are these still vacuum measuring devices ? .

            I’m old and so enjoy the use of “Mileage Minder” intake manifold vacuum gauges on my gasoline powered cars/trucks and I do religious fuel economy checks on every fillup, as I drive close to 4,000 miles every month they’re very useful .

            -Nate

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “¿ Are these still vacuum measuring devices ?”

            I’m pretty sure they’re all digital these days- take the signal from the vehicle speed sensor, divide it by whatever the engine computer thinks the instantaneous fuel flow is, answer = miles per gallon (or flip it around for liters/100km).

            That data and more is in the OBD hookup so it’s not a bit deal to send it to a gauge or a little digital display next to the clock, the outside temperature, or the whatever features the salesman wants to brag about.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “¿ Are these still vacuum measuring devices ?”

            (more- edit/save timed out)

            Can any of you BMW fans explain how the old fuel economy needle worked? BMWs going back to the 1980s had that instrument in the main gauge cluster but I never saw anything similar in any other makes.

            Back to vacuum measuring devices, those are sort of still around but not exactly the same as the simple, old, low vacuum lights. The “eco” lights (or whatever it’s called in different makes and models) tell the driver it’s either time to upshift or that they have a heavy right foot. Some modern fuel injection systems deliver a richer mixture at low vacuum and/or wide open throttle, just like a lot of carburetors used to have enrichment jets that opened at low manifold vacuum. Engine load, using manifold absolute pressure, as one of the inputs, is a primary input to computer so it can decide whether to turn those light turns on or off.

    • 0 avatar
      2manycars

      There is no reason to reduce CO2 emissions, it is not a pollutant. (I sure as shootin’ am not willing to reduce my own CO2 output.) There may be reasons the proposal may be a bad idea, but that is not one of them.

      The Climate Cultists whose religion teaches them that CO2 is a problem are welcome to stop breathing in order to “Save the Planet”.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Too much CO2 in the atmosphere does act as a kind of blanket in the air, holding heat down. It’s not a “pollutant” as such but it IS a “greenhouse gas”. That’s the problem with your argument. Internal combustion engines… heck, combustion of almost any kind, no matter the fuel, pumps more CO2 into the air and deforestation such as seen in South America takes down the biggest CO2-scrubbers in our natural environment. We either need to add mega-sized CO2 scrubbers in industrial areas or simply reduce the amount of fuel burn which would automatically reduce the amount of CO2 going into the air. It’s really VERY simple and understandable.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Bottom line is who is going to pay for these extra lanes? Surely not us poor folk driving slow cars.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    No speed limits + no high speed training = disaster

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      + poor maintenance. I know it is fashionable to stereotype that guy with the beater Honda… but apart from sheer newness, how many people of even expensive cars actually maintain their cars to spec? The maintenance rigor once you drive at triple digits is not something Americans have appetite for.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    A car in your left mirror racing up to you while you drive 120 km/h in the right line, and the guy does 250 km/h in the left lane… it is like seeing a bullet come up to you. It is not a great feeling and it cannot be safe. There is a reason that there are very few stretches of Autobahn without speed limit left. See http://autobahnspeedhunter.com/

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      The article clearly stated that the limitless roads would be separated from the regular lanes by barriers. If you dont want to drive that fast, stay on the current road.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    Just like in Denmark?

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I like the proposal. I’ll eat my arm if this happens. There is NO WAY in California.

    1) they hate freedom too much
    2) they love the environment too much

    Separating lanes with barriers is big in Germany. The roads are generally excellently maintained. Lane discipline is followed.

    With that said, I don’t think we can’t do it here. Its just that we drive so slowly why bother. Part of the reason discipline is followed in Germany is because if it isn’t it might get you killed.

    But block off the lanes, barriers the entire length to contain any crashes to avoid off-road or head on incidents, and maybe an additional training certification required on your license and a sticker on the car (Like CA HOV sticker) and you have access to the lanes. Hell, make them a toll road.

    I like it. I just will never see California being the first to do it. Texas. Montana. South Dakota. Gonna be some place like that.

  • avatar
    James Charles

    Unless the US (California) improves driver education and enforcement of existing road rules with new road rules this is a dream.

    US current road fatalities is already poor by world standards.

    Lots of work to be done to make this idea responsible.

  • avatar
    forward_look

    They need drug tests, psychiatric evaluations and IQ tests for all levels of government and elected officials.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Yes, the Germans are better drivers!

    No, I’m not a Germanophile. Perhaps the opposite, but….

    The Germans take driving seriously. The Germans live in crowded, resource constrained country.

    As a result, better drivers demand BETTER cars. These more DEMANDING motorists want cars that GO FAST without burning a lot of gas.

    The drivers DRIVE–they don’t eat, do make-up, check e-mail, etc.

    I remember how amazed I was–logical speed limits that everyone followed. People signaled their turns. Slower traffic kept right. WOW!

    Before the heavy hand of government forced ALL automakers to up their game A LOT, say the past 10-15 years, which has improved American and Asian cars objectively, the Germans were way ahead.

    And as result, while today I consider Mercedes and BMW to be overpriced and coasting on their past reputations of being ‘engineered like no other car in the world’ or ‘the ultimate driving machine’ (both TRUE), the built the best cars because their home market had much more demanding customers.

    American cars, until the 80s, stood out in the areas of convenience (world’s best automatics thru the 70s) and climate control (in Michigan, and much of the US, the weather and temperature extremes are…extreme, compared to much of the world, so we had great heat and HVAC).

    I’m all for getting rid of speed limits, but America’s already mediocre driving skills of 30 years ago have been dumbed down more-a lot more–by better, easier to drive cars, and cell phones, navigation system, etc.

    And that’s too bad…

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Better cars? I run from the thought of owning a German car.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Way back in the seventies when I was stationed in Germany, we had brought a brand new 1972 Olds Custom Cruiser with us as our family hauler while there.

        Because we needed to buy a second car as well while in Germany, a succession of used German-brand cars followed. They were lighter, handled better, didn’t wallow, were more economical to operate, and generally fit better in the narrow streets of Heidelberg, et al.

        That may account for their popularity here in America today.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        You order filet Mignon, it gets served on a fancy plate. You order flank steak and you get a fajita from a food truck. An S Klasse shouldn’t be compared to a CLA nor should a 7 series be compared to a 3 series lease special. You get what you pay for. Then Lexus made the LC and upset that apple cart.

    • 0 avatar
      JimC2

      Sooooo are you saying that most American drivers are selfish bumpkins behind the wheel? Because if you were suggesting that then you’d be correct.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      I sat in on some meetings years ago where a ‘domestic’ automaker was working to introduce a version of its ill-fated minivan to the European market.

      As I heard it explained at the time, to pass German certification for braking systems, you would start with the vehicle at the top of the highest paved mountain in Germany on a hot day, towing a trailer loaded to the maximum rated towing capacity. You would then drive down the mountain using brakes only (no downshifting/engine braking allowed), park the vehicle in an enclosed garage for a specified hot soak period, and *then* measure the brake temperatures.

      The U.S. spec brakes did not meet the German requirement. The requirement may have been too demanding, but the difference in mindset was illuminating.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Dedicated high speed lanes, stricter licensing of drivers, and enforcement of vehicle standards all make perfect sense, which is why it will never happen in California.

  • avatar
    ThomasSchiffer

    The Autobahn’s safety record is also boosted by the fact that we as car owners are essentially required to properly maintain our vehicles and keep them in proper and safe running conditions at all times. Every two years (three, if your car is new) we are required by law to take our cars to a rigorous TÜV inspection. Your car will only get the approval seal if all systems related to safety and pollution controls are in perfect running order.

    Regarding CO2 emissions, there is talk of permanently enforcing a speed limit of 120/130 km/h on our Autobahns in order to ‘reduce fatalities’ and ‘CO2 emissions.’ There is currently quite the CO2 hysteria in Europe, because our societies are being ruined by green liberals and climate change cultists.

    Naturally, I am against this as legally speeding is one of our few remaining freedoms in an ever increasing ‘anti-democratic Germany.’ A speed limit of 120/130 km/h is, from my point of view, dangerously slow. It is ‘dangerously slow’ because I find myself quite bored and distracted at such speeds, whereas at higher speeds my concentration and alertness are at full readiness.

  • avatar
    jatz

    Drunk, illegal, exhausted from roofing 12 hours, fake license, never drove before crossing the border… times a couple hundred thousand… what could go wrong?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    And,

    The ignorant haters chime in yet again =8-) .

    I’d love this .

    Some old man whi just so happened to look like me, was tearing up the i5 and S.R.99 to – day at 90 MPH when safe, high speed driving requires attention as well as a properly maintained vehicle .

    Agreed, too many unsafe vehicles on our rods these dayze .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    NoID

    I welcome the proposition, but only if it requires additional driver training and robust vehicle inspection for those drivers/vehicles which will be traveling at triple digit speeds. Too many drivers get their license from a Cracker Jack box and maintain their vehicle only at the point of inoperability.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    I was lit up by Les Gendarmes for going 120 Km/h in a manual Renault 25 in the slow lane on an Autoroute. It was humming along at an astounding ( for a North American ) 3000 RPM. They were motioning to me to go faster. I wound it up to 140 Km/h and they then waved as they passed me. The speed limit was 120 Km/h. That little car would easily do 160 Km/h all day. Fully-loaded. That’s 100 MPH, folks, and many years ago. I doubt very much that my F-150 could pull that off for hours on end.

  • avatar
    markf

    “I doubt very much that my F-150 could pull that off for hours on end.”

    I wouldn’t be so dismissive of North American vehicles. i lived in Germany for 5 years and saw many Ford Mondeos zipping along the autobahn without issue. I know it is not sold here but still a Ford Product. I drove a 2004 TL-S, Sienna, Scion XB and Civi Si for many, many hours with the cruise control set at 100mph (well 90mph in the Sienna) And never had a single issue. The TL was rock solid at 120mph.

    Plus, the autobahn is overrated, it’s two lanes and speed limited in most places. It takes serious concentration to drive safely, trucks are limited 80KM and the right lane. Like most highways everywhere it’s chocked with traffic and under constant construction. In 5 years I got to drive an unlimited section for a significant period of time only once. Sunday night during a holiday week on the A6. it was pretty awesome, I had my Civic Si bumping up against the rev limiter in 6th gear for about 2 hours.

    Lots of American highways, esp. out West are ideally suited for unlimited highways, just not sure most American drivers are ready for it.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The rail line, despite the expense, would still be the better choice if it is capable of 200mph or more. It would be roughly twice as fast as any SANE person would want to drive over any distance and one heck of a lot less stressful for the driver over that 2-hour trip than the highway at 4 hours or so. And you wouldn’t be burning gas (or electricity) at a ridiculous rate on a per-passenger basis, either.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      High speed trains = high speed train wrecks. Imagine the carnage!

      • 0 avatar
        redgolf

        I always thought the tube train was a good idea, that way your only scraping the sides when you go off track and no RR crossings!:-)

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @chris724: Compared to the carnage on the highways, trains are the safest mode of transportation on the ground. More people are killed by pedestrians and unobservant drivers crossing the tracks than are killed ON the trains. Consider the safety record of the Acela Express on the NorthEast Corridor, it’s been operating for over a decade with nobody killed on the train (though I acknowledge a major incident by one of the regional trains in Philadelphia some years back, but even then nowhere near as many killed as on Philadelphia’s highways over the same period of time.)

        High-speed rail, when engineered properly with no grade crossings and restricted pedestrian access, is extremely safe AND, as I said above, far less stressful on the traveler compared to driving at 100mph+.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          @Vulpine

          As the CA debacle has shown, building the rail line you envision is often politically impossible. So you try and build what you can and wind up, if it were ever completed that is, with a line from where nobody is to where nobody wants to go. I can’t imagine it would be any better in the Acela corridor, short of totalitarian levels of eminent domain brooking no appeals. I have used Amtrak to get from SE New England to NYC downtown many times. It is, as you say, stress free and comfortable. Portal to portal it is quicker than the alternatives. And it was often only partly full. What is the efficiency per actual passenger mile when you don’t have many passengers?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            What is your definition of “politically impossible”? While I fully understand the capital cost of building a route from scratch is financially unfeasible, it is not impossible. The only apparent stall this time is STRICTLY due to the US government trying to punish California for disagreeing with the current administration. That, however, doesn’t make the route impossible, just more expensive.

            Interestingly, during the last recession, Amtrak ridership went up, as did ridership in many commuter trains both on the NEC and elsewhere. Moreover, I’ve taken to riding the Auto Train from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL pretty much on an annual basis as the ride is comfortable and I arrive at my destination ready to do more than just sleep from exhaustion. And with how cramped and uncomfortable air traffic has become, especially when including terminal time at both ends of the flight, simply don’t fly any more unless there’s no other choice (including car. I’d rather drive than fly, despite being so much slower.)

            If passenger rail were more ubiquitous and could realize competitive times to flying over moderate distances (300-500 miles) then rail traffic would be significantly heavier overall. As it is, the Auto Train makes its daily run pretty close to full every day.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            “with how cramped and uncomfortable air traffic has become”

            This is because the market has spoken. A big chunk of the traveling public speaks with two different voices- their public voice complains about tight seating while their wallet voice chooses cattle class seating.

            For a route like northern Virginia to Central Florida and back again, you have an a-la carte choice of air travel: There’s cattle class, then there are two or three levels of upgrades that cost about $50 more for each step, or you can skip the basic/economy plus/coach and choose first class for about $300 more than a cattle class ticket.

            I’ve never heard of Auto Train but your post made me look it up. What a great idea! Pack the car and bring it on the train with you- perfect for an extended stay when a rental car would be too expensive, and on the other hand, such a great alternative to driving yourself on a road trip.

            The best part of all this is that we have so many choices for personal travel.

        • 0 avatar
          chuckrs

          @Vulpine

          The AutoTrain is wonderful. My wife and I enjoyed it a couple of times, but now live in Florida. Many people whose income is below the top decile or quintile are likely to weigh the immediate out of pocket expense of the AutoTrain versus the cost of 30-40 gallons of regular and gut out the boredom of I95South. Too, the destination is Florida with enough older folks to assure a full train. How would this play elsewhere?
          Secondly, I sure don’t like the idea of a recession being the mechanism to increase ridership. Some idiot prog might decide if making people feel poor increases train ridership, then make it so for the greater good. Lastly, the definition of politically impossible is you lose your next election. If Moonbeam had managed to get the eminent domain condemnations in desirable areas necessary to run a sensible track line LA to SF, do you really think there wouldn’t be political repercussions for all levels of elected officials? Kelo vs New London also showed it takes years for eminent domain condemnations even against a blue collar neighborhood.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Well, I can understand the idea of ‘imminent domain’ being slow, but then, I wasn’t talking about imminent domain as a means to take possession of land; I was talking about buying the land legitimately and paying a fair price. Or, if not buying, then a lease that becomes ownership after the lease holder dies or moves away. And don’t forget that I clearly stated it would be expensive to build, with or without the federal assistance.

            The point is that rail is faster than driving, even at normal passenger speeds, as the train doesn’t have to stop for fuel every 200 miles or so AT those speeds. (Yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point.) The train can make the SF to LA run on a single load of fuel or, if by some chance they chose to go catenary, would use far less “fuel” with effectively unlimited range under the wires. Again, 2 hours by train at 200mph would be faster, safer and much less tiring than driving the distance at 100mph for four hours. And with certain exceptions, the car would almost have to refuel once, no matter the power plant.

  • avatar
    Reino

    High-speed toll lanes are the best option. The Bernie-bros will argue that it gives an unfair advantage to the wealthy, but I say if you’re willing to spend the money to get to your destination faster, then your business is probably more important than those that aren’t.

  • avatar
    E85

    yeah. stupid idea. American drivers aren’t up to it. I’m in Italy. the road fatality rate is half of the US figure. but look at the roads…winding, narrow, potholes, heavy trucks, bicycles. but the drivers can cope. no American could drive on these roads safely. they have adopted US octagonal stop signs. you think any Italian pays a blind bit of notice? haha. they just hesitate a second then blast on through. and so do the carabiniere. it’s training and experience that makes the difference. the more you mollycoddle the drivers with straight divided highways and extra lanes, the more lazy and incompetent they become.

    they should build that stupid train. if they’d just run it up the I-5 corridor with a tunnel under the Tehachapis as they were advised to do by the French experts it would be running by now. Every other country in the world can do it. what’s up with the US?

    • 0 avatar
      jatz

      “I’m in Italy. the road fatality rate is half of the US figure.”

      Well, natch!

      You can’t work up no speed on them little mule trails over there.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Nice thought and I know what you mean, E85, but the country of Italy is also much, MUCH smaller than the US. Proportional to the US, the fatality rate sounds like it’s higher than California–of an approximately similar size.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Come on! Can you cite a reference that Italy’s ‘road fatality rate is half the US’ ?

    For one thing, I bet miles travelled per driver in the US is 2-3x what it is in Italy.

    But I certainly agree with you that if Italy were full of American drivers, the fatality rate would be higher. And based on my 5 days of driving in Italy some 25 years ago, you paint a good picture of the Italian drivers.

    The skill set of Italian drivers is much higher for reasons cited–more crowded, congested, and challenging (curvy hills and mountains where, if you lose control, you don’t just slide or roll into a wide shoulder or median—you go off the road down a hillside or cliff..). Greece, where I grew was similar, but as a poorer country with no local auto industry, the roads were worse, less signage. Survival of the fittest meant being vigilant…many intersection didn’t have stop signs, others did, but that didn’t mean people stopped…so, you always had to slow down enough to get a good look and be able to stop, whether the intersection was marked or not.

    During my visit to Germany/Italy, here is what I noticed: my buddy and I rented a car in Germany. I was really impressed with the German drivers–no stupidity! Turn signals, keep right, and observe the speed limits, AND those limits were 85% ile, logical. A two lane road road thru town would be 60 kph, for example. The autobahns were great, as others have described.

    So we drive thru Austria to Italy. In an Italian road that should have been 40 mph (60-65kph), the speed limits would be absurdly low–40kph, and everyone would drive DOUBLE or more.

    Also, to save money, the Autostrada leg we drove was virtually empty…but the parallel route with no tolls and stop lights was full. On the autostrada, whatever the limit was (120?), several cars just blew by us. However, I will say, they did so from the left.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    OK, what about all the cars here in the US with regular passenger car tires with speed ratings far below the 130-150mph speeds these highways are capable of?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    There’s canals and aqueducts for transporting water all over Southern California, right? Just allow paddle boat traffic on those.

    /sarc, if you can’t tell

  • avatar
    statikboy

    Kiss your loved ones goodbye.


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