Bigger & Harman,APC - July 2018





DRIVER Attorneys Defending Your Right to the Road

JULY 2018


Lessons From the Autobahn

Much of my career as an attorney has been spent defending people who have the same itch I do: to drive fast. Ever since I was a teenager driving around the Oregon coast, I’ve felt that urge to open the throttle and see what’s under the hood. The challenge of my adult life has been to find ways of doing that legally and responsibly. That’s why a few years ago, my friend and fellow lawyer Chris and I caught a flight from sunny California to explore Germany, the land where automobiles are still allowed to travel as their earthly makers designed them to. We went to find driver nirvana, the German freeway system with a beautiful- sounding name: the autobahn. I had first heard about this speed-limitless stretch of asphalt from my father. While serving our country during the Cold War, he served a stint in Germany and experienced the country’s beautifully engineered and intelligently regulated roadways. The experience had a lasting effect on my dad. He proceeded to get himself two speeding tickets within a month after returning stateside. It was the search for this magical stretch of road my father had spoken of that led Chris and me to Europe. We started our weekend blitzkrieg at the Hertz counter in Dusseldorf. One painfully obvious downside of speed in Germany is the cost of petrol, but we weren’t about to sacrifice speed for fuel economy during this particular experience. I once drove around Lake Michigan in a Cadillac CTS-V with an average of 18 miles to the gallon. We gladly paid the $6-per-gallon price of petrol for an awesome display of horsepower. We hit the road in our BMW and rocketed almost 3,000 kilometers in the span of a long weekend.

that there are no speed limits anywhere. To the contrary, about two-thirds of the autobahn is regulated at 65–80 mph. There is also a network of electronic signs that can change the speed limit based on driving conditions. The second myth follows the first. Police do regularly enforce speeding laws, and the punishment can be quite severe. But in the no-limit section of the autobahn, officers are looking for a lack of driver courtesy and common sense rather than enforcing an arbitrary number.

I learned this firsthand when I came upon an officer in the left lane of the no-limits section. With my speedometer clocking 120 miles per hour, his rear bumper was coming up fast. I began to let off the gas when something incredible happened: The officer turned on his signal, merged right, and let me fly on through. This is the sort of experience you can only get on the autobahn. In Germany, while driving is a joy, that joy comes from recognizing that it is also a responsibility. If someone wants to go faster than you, no offense

We had gone to find driver nirvana, the German freeway system with a beautiful-sounding name: the autobahn.”

is taken. The common good is considered in that a highway system is about moving people and goods as efficiently as possible. Blinkers are not optional in Germany, and rearview mirrors get used a lot more. One of the reasons that the autobahn can have such high speeds is that a high level of responsibility is expected. In American car accidents, fault is largely placed on the driver who was going faster than the arbitrary speed limit. But in a place where there is no speed limit, driver attention is valued more. The focus is placed squarely on ensuring that everyone gets home safely and quickly! While our lawmakers here in the States continue to have their hang-ups around speeding, I am proud to be able to represent those drivers with the exceptional responsibility of driving safely on American Roads. And sometimes, they have a strong right foot. For those readers who truly want to experience the full potential of the automobile, I cannot recommend a trip to Germany more highly. You won’t just have a blast — you’ll gain a new appreciation for what it truly means to drive quickly and responsibly on the safest freeway in the world.

Now, there are a few myths about the autobahn that have made their way to America. The first myth is

–Mark Bigger

Happy trails,

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