Speed Limits in Germany: Should they be enforced nationally?

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Entering the Autobahn in Hamburg. Photo taken in March 2017

It is one of the main anchors of German culture. It is a place where you must try when visiting Germany. It is also one where if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you could end up endangering yourself and others too. It’s the German Autobahn. Introduced over a century ago and expanded during the 1930s, the Autobahn became the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It also became the shortest way to get to your destination. With its famed unlimited speed limits, as seen on the signs, you can get from Munich to Berlin in five hours without any traffic jams; seven when going from Cologne to Dresden. In some cases, travelling by the Autobahn is faster than traveling by train, especially when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) has to handle delays and cancellations on a daily basis. 70% of all Autobahns in Germany do not have a speed limit, whereas speed limits are enforced in blackspots, construction areas and in big cities, and they limit based on the density of traffic on the highways.

Sadly though, it is one of the deadliest places to drive because of reckless driving, disobeying traffic regulations, disregarding other road-users and sometimes, poor conditions on the pavement themselves. In comparison to other European countries, the German Autobahn has the highest fatality rate of all the member states, plus Great Britain. The rate of deaths on the Autobahn per 1000 kilometers is 30.2%, according to data provided by the European Union. The European average is 26.4%. Per billion kilometers, the fatality rate in Germany is 1.6 is double that of Great Britain’s. Comparing that with the US, the fatality rate per mile is still less but the rate may become on par with the Americans in a few years. On 25 of the most dangerous interstate and federal highways in the States, the average death rate is 0.62 per mile. Along the six deadliest, the rate per mile is 0.9!  Given the increase in cars on German Autobahns, combined with distracted driving and even reckless driving, the statistics are sobering.

 

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Attempts were made in January 2019 to introduce a “blanket-style” speed limit on all German Autobahn to ensure that people obey the speed limits. The reason for the proposed enforcement is to ensure that drivers stay within the limit and not race with speeds of up to 250 km/h (in the US: 155 mph.  While this proposal was dead on arrival in the German parliament, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be resurrected at a later time. There are several arguments for and against a nationwide speed limit:

Proponents for the Speed Limit Opponents of the Speed Limit
Other countries in Europe have them: Poland has the 140 km/h limit (85 mph). The Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, have the 130 km/h (80 mph) limit (which had been proposed by the German government) Belgium and Switzerland have a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit.

 

A map of the countries with the speed limits can be found above.

The enforcement of the speed limit would increase the cost for mobility in Germany, especially with the subsidies involving e-cars, tax hikes for gas, introducing incentives to replace old diesel cars with newer ones conforming to standards and enforcing a ban on diesel cars in big cities.
“Reducing speed limits would bring down the number of fatalities, which is one in four-“  an argument presented by Michael Mertens, Chair of the German Police Officers Union in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Money should be spent on expanding public transportation services, such as trains and busses, as well as bike trails for they provide healthier choices.
He adds further: “By even reducing the speed limit to 130, it would help prevent serious accidents and tailbacks (traffic jams)” To add to his argument: A report showed that 2018 was the worst year regarding traffic jams as over 745,000 were reported, an average of 2000 per day. This was a 3% increase since 2017. The Autobahn is a tourist trap and visitors to Germany would like to experience driving the Autobahn and stop at well-known rest areas and eateries along the way.
Speed limits would reduce carbon dioxide emmissions- in 2017 alone, 115 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere in Germany came from cars. The rate has increased steadily since 1990. Reducing the speed on the Autobahn would hurt car sales, especially with the likes of BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, etc.

 

A report on mobility was expected to be released at the end of March, outlining the details on how Germany can reduce carbon dioxide emissions without being penalized millions of Euros by the authorities in Brussels. Already the government has come under fire for admitting that its goal of reducing emissions by 8% by 2020 would not be reached due to several factors, including weening itself off of coal by 2038, lacking support for European measures to tackle climate change and the like. Yet the report is expected to include the enforcement of speed limits on Germany’s Autobahn system. While a general speed limit already in place on most streets and two-lane roads, the question is why not introduce it onto German highways, just like in every other state?

This is where the question between culture and conformity come to mind- Are we ready to rein in speeding at the cost of tradition or do we have bigger environmental issues to tackle and speeding “…defies all common sense,” as mentioned by German Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer?

 

 

Questionnaire: Should Germany enfore its speed limit on its Autobahn system? If so, what speed is acceptable?

Feel free to vote and also write your thoughts in the comment section. Click on the highlighted links to read more about the speedlimits. 

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fast fact logo 16131_tempolimit_130_km_h_zulässige_höchstgeschwindigkeit:

  1. According to German Traffic Laws, drivers are allowed to speed up to 100 km/h on all roads and 130 km/h on expressways and designated stretches of the German Autobahn. When in town, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless posted. Some speed limits allow for 60 km/h.

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2. Beware of the magic number! The 60 km/h limit is the most commonly used speed limit in Germany, used on many different occasions. One will find it inside the city,  on speed limit signs designated for trucks (although the maximum speed is 80), and in construction zones- even on Autobahns.  The second most common speed sign is the 70 limit, which is found in cities but is required at all highways intersections.

3.  Blackspots are defined as areas that are most proned to accidents. They can be found construction sites as well as areas along the highway- curves, intersections, built-up areas in the city and other dangerous spots where accidents  most often occur.

 

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The History of Christmas Lights- Guessing Quiz

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When Christmas is here, so are the Christmas lights. On the tree, on the houses and even on people, Christmas lights have become the cornerstone to any holiday celebration. For over a century, people have embraced them, cursed at them if things go awry, competed with neighbors for the best lighting and lastly (but most importantly), taken pride in their work of making things twinkle and flash.

Many of us don’t know much about the history of Christmas lighting, despite having materials being written about them. We do know that the invention of electrical Christmas lights came right after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Afterwards, the rest was history.

I’ve compiled a quiz on the history of Christmas lighting in the US and beyond, with the goal of challenging you all to guess at the answers and learn about how the Christmas lights have evolved into something where we cannot live without them, especially at Christmas time.

So switch on the bubble lights and set to work on these questions. Good luck and the answers will come before the end of the holiday season! 🙂

Christmas Lights QuizChristmas Lights Quiz 2

Hint to Nr. 10: 

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipP3V_c3-O_SG9iuBSodfR1N4SJ8VfNeIYhgLUOoZmWyf-jysZOea4G7OZa5F-ZDuw?key=ZnoxNUZybFN2UmNpeFlqOWZVdEp0V0g1ZFpFaXB3

 

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FlFi Christmas 2018

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

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In connection with the recent attacks on Central American migrants wishing to cross the border separating Mexico and the United States, the second segment of this poem has been echoing throughout the social network scene.

Little do they realize is this important section comes from a poem written by Emma Lazarus entitled the New Colossus. Written in 1883, Ms. Lazarus’ mission for this poem is to empower the US at that time to be the open gates that welcomed those wishing to flee the country for a better life. Originally written as part of a fund raiser for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, which had been in construction at that time, it had been set aside and forgotten when The Lady was completed and opened to the public in 1886. Lazarus died a year later at the age of 38, after becoming serious ill after her second trip to Europe. Yet, her friend Georgina Schuyler, campaigned to have her and her poem memorialized in 1901. Two years later, a plaque with her poem was created for the inside wall of the pedestal inside the Statue of Liberty, dedicating it in her memory and to the immigrants who saw the statue as the symbol of freedom and a new life. The original writing can be found at the American Jewish Historical Society in New York City.   The entire poem follows these lines below:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

This poem is dedicated to the thousands of Latin Americans fleeing repression and violence in their homelands for the United States to have a better life. The same goes for the refugees of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and parts of the Middle East and Africa who are seeking a better life in Europe and eventually the States as well. Always remember, the light will always be on; the door open, even if you toil through the waters, barracades and those who reject you. You are all always welcome.

 

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Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) had Jewish ancestry with her family originating from Germany and Portugal. Although she had spent almost her entire life in New York City, much of her writing has to do with the German heritage as she has written poems and stories with the likes of Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine mentioned. The poetry works of these two German writers were adapted into English by Ms. Lazarus. Other themes of her works written had to do with immigration and its hardships as well as the Jewish religion, which she was born and raised into.  Details on her life and work can be found here.

 

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Fl Fi USA

Santa Goes Shopping- Kaufland Commercial ’18

 

With the holiday season around the corner, we have Father Christmas (Santa Claus) in action, as seen in the Christmas commercial presented by German supermarket chain Kaufland. This was released shortly before Thanksgiving and even though it is a tradition over here in Germany to have food chains to release commercials with special themes just in time for the holiday season, this one is special as Germany, like many countries in Europe, is latching onto the Black Friday tradition, where people line up in front of malls and major stores to get the best deals for Christmas. The difference here is that Kaufland, like many store chains, are introducing Black Week. Taking place at the same time as Thanksgiving, Black Week shoppers can find the best deals both in stores as well as online- mostly through Amazon, who may have started this tradition. Whether it is a good idea to order online or not remains to be open, but if Father Christmas keeps huffing and puffing to get everything last minute, he won’t have to worry about weight loss come Christmas time. It’s just a matter of persuading people perceiving him as fat and jolly that being slim and active is a wonderful thing. 😉

 

So let’s shop and celebrate smart, shall we?

 

The Flensburg Files is about to go on tour to the Christmas markets again, as the first one opens after Thanksgiving. To look at the previous places visited, click here.

There is also a collection of other Christmas stories, films and poems in the Literature and Genre section. Click here and scroll down, there are some funny ones worth seeing.

While the Christmas market tour will include some catching up from last year (the author was sick during much of the holiday season last year), it will include some cool activities for you to try out, not to mention a couple things to think about- the author sometimes has to get them off his chest and many can benefit from it.

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FLFI Holiday logo

Guessing Quiz: Thanksgiving and Food in the USA

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Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s a special day where people gather to reflect on the year and appreciate what they have and have achieved. While the holiday is celebrated in other countries, such as Canada, Germany and other European countries, they take place earlier and have their own customs that are different to what Americans are accustomed to. Aside from having the turkey and stuffing, what else is typical of this holiday?

To find out, I’ve compiled a Guessing Quiz for you to try and test your knowledge. It’s multiple choice but only one answer is possible.  Good for just about any place. Let’s start with the first question:

1. What is so special about Thanksgiving?
a. It marks the anniversary of the ratification of the US Constitution in 1787
b. It’s a day of giving thanks
c. It’s the last day before the fasting period starts.

 
2. When did the first Pilgrims arrive?
a. 1620
b. 1863
c. 1621
d. 1815

 
3. Where did the first Pilgrims originate from?
a. Norway
b. Germany
c. Spain
d. England

 
4. Where did the Pilgrims land?
a. Virginia
b. Massachusetts
c. New York
d. Delware

 
5. Who led the expedition and later became the mayor of the first settlement?
a. William Bradford
b. Giovanni de Verrazano
c. Hernando Cortes
d. Francisco Coronado

 
6. Which Indian chief helped the settlers establish their foothold on their
community and later helped commemorate the Thanksgiving celebration?
a. Massasoit
b. Dances with Wolves
c. Crazy Horse
d. Sitting Bull

 
7. When was Thanksgiving permanently declared a national holiday?
a. 1863
b. 1865
c. 1918
d. 1783

 
8. Which US President proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday?
a. Theodore Roosevelt
b. Abraham Lincoln
c. William McKinley
d. Andrew Johnson

 
9. Which of the foods served is NOT typical of Thanksgiving? Mark only one.
a. Turkey
b. Mashed Potatoes
c. Sweet Potatoes
d. Cranberry sauce
e. Pumpkin Pancakes
f. Pumpkin Pie

 
10. What sport is the most popular to watch on Thanksgiving?
a. Basketball
b. Football
c. American Football
d. Professional Wrestling
e. Ice Hockey
f. Handball
g. Curling

 

As a bonus, I’ve included a quiz on American food in order to determine what you can find in the States.  And while some of them can be found in Europe, it’s not as popular as when you find along the store shelves. Good luck in this version:

  • What is a Smorgasbord?
    • An “all-you-can-eat restaurant
    • A Norwegian sandwich
    • Food that is sold at a convenient store

 

  • What is a potluck dinner?
    • A meal that is cooked in a big pot
    • Whoever is lucky gets to eat first
    • An event where everyone can bring some food and drink to share with others

 

  • What is egg nog?
    • Another word for pancake
    • A drink consisting of eggs, milk/cream, sugar, spices and sometimes alcohol (mainly rum)
    • A sweet bread with eight eggs.

 

  • Egg nog translated into German would be similar to which drink?
    • Eierpunsch
    • Eierlikör
    • Eieradvokaat

 

  • What does a yam refer to?
    • People whining
    • People enjoying food
    • Sweet potato

 

  • Jell-O in America is a special pudding. What is it, exactly?
    • Créme Brulette
    • Wiggle-Pudding (Wackelpudding in D)
    • Creme pudding

 

  • What ingredient does NOT go into chili con carne?
    • black beans
    • corn
    • tofu

 

  • Which main dish is universally served for the holidays, regardless of which one?
    • Hamburger
    • Turkey
    • Roast Beef

 

  • Root beer is referred to which type of drink?
    • Dark beer
    • Light beer with 10% alcohol
    • A sweet drink flavored with roots and different spices

 

  • Smores is what kind of desert?
    • Ice cream shake
    • Sandwich with a melted marshmallow and chocolate on a graham cracker
    • Oreo sandwich with ice cream.

 

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The Flensburg Files and sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful start into the holiday season!

 

Author’s note: The graphic above is courtesy of Tracy Nelson, who was famous for her role at Sister Steve in the Father Dowling Mysteries

 

Fl Fi USA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answers to Part 1:

  1. b,  2. c, 3. d, 4. b, 5. a, 6. a, 7. a, 8. b, 9. e, 10. b

Answers to Part 2:

  1. a, 2. c, 3. b, 4. c, 5. c, 6. b, 7. c, 8. b, 9. c, 10. c

Documentary: Deaths in Despair: The End of the American Dream

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A while back, I wrote an essay on the American Dream and how it has changed over the past half decade to a point where it has become diverse in many ways, shape and form. In theory one can achieve the dream through hard work. In praxis, however, it is a totally different league. And especially within the last decade, this American Dream has become more and more materialistic, divided based on money, power and even social, ethnical and cultural backgrounds, and especially since Donald Trump has taken over, more dysfunctional than at any time in American history.

No wonder why these dystopian variants are leading to the breakdown of families and friendships, the rise in violence and in many cases, as we can see in this documentary below, the rise in the rate of suicides. Nobel prize-winning economist Angus Deaton, and his wife, fellow Princeton Prof. Anne Case, have traveled together with Wall Street Journal’s Jason Belini from coast to coast to find out what is leading to the disappearance of the American Dream, and how it is impacting other countries in many ways, shape and form. In this 10-minute documentary, produced by Moving Upstream, the three take a look at this and whether suicide and other social pathologies are causing this almost seven-decade long dream to become a memory.

Watch this clip and have a look at the questions you can discuss below. For the American expatriates residing overseas, like yours truly, this is definitely worth watching and discussing for elements of the American Dream are impacting other countries, including those you are living in.

 

 

  1. What has changed in the American Dream over the past decades?
  2. What variants could benefit keeping the American Dream alive?
  3. Aside from the suicide rate, what variants are contributing to the death of the American Dream? 
  4. If there was a luxury that you had growing up as a child (be it 30 years ago or more) that you miss in today’s society, what would it be and why?
  5. If you were the president of the US and had to look at the problems facing America, especially in this clip, what would you do to make the lives of Americans better and help them fulfill their happiness?
  6. How is the American Dream affecting other countries? 
  7. How is social media affecting American society?
  8. Is it true that the high rate of suicide in the US is negatively affecting the American Dream? If not, what other factors are contributing to its demise? 

 

Fl Fi USA

Promotional Campaign for the 2018 Mid-Term Elections

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In light of the Mid-term Elections in the United States, which takes place on November 6th, I’ve produced a video about the state of the US from an American expatriate’s point of view, asking the American people both here and abroad: Is this the America we want?

There are two options: One can sit out and allow for events to happen, or one can take the extra hour and vote. If you don’t like what you see in the US and its standing in the world, then my only advice is this……

VOTE!

 

Fl Fi USA