International Motorways
The German Autobahns are pretty safe...

International Motorway Fatality Rates

Reference source: The International Road Traffic Accident Database. IRTAD.

What can we conclude?

The speed kills argument would be greatly facilitated if there was a correlation between the motorway speed limit and the fatal accident rate of different countries. Unfortunately for the "speed kills" proponents no such relationship exists. All the countries listed have Motorway speed limits between 62.5 mph and 82 mph except Germany which has no limit. The UK has the safest Motorways and a speed limit somewhere in the middle of the range. (70 mph)

Let's look at Germany where the Autobahns famously have no speed limit. Germany clearly shows as one of the safer countries (it's around twice as safe as Belgium or Austria for example). Perhaps Germany isn't quite so famous for having some of the most antiquated Motorways in Europe. But it's true. They were the first to build, and they have tight junctions, short slip roads and proportionately more two lane Motorways than most of the other countries. So we should expect the German Autobahns to be "quite dangerous" by design.

It's great to note that UK Motorways are the safest in the list. Obviously we're doing something right, but when you compare the UK with the other countries it's obvious that there's no relationship between speed limit and motorway fatality rate. Other factors must be far more important.

There's an 8:1 variation between the UK and Hungary, but only a 2:1 variation between the UK and Germany.  If anyone thinks for a moment that the speed limit in Germany might be the main factor which makes the Autobahns twice as dangerous as the UK motorways, please also consider why the Belgian and Austrian Motorways are twice as dangerous as the Autobahns. And if that's not enough you'll have to explain why the Hungarian Motorways are twice as dangerous as the Belgian Motorways.

In Portugal and Hungary, it might be reasonable to assume that economic conditions affect the fatality rates. 

But whatever it is that's killing in those countries at the top of the scale, it isn't speed is it?

You can't measure safe driving in miles per hour

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Created 2002
Typographical correction: 25th January 2006