Speed limits on Europe’s roads as France joins the slow lane

Paris - France, which recently reduced its speed limit on two-lane highways to 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph) from 90 km/h, has joined the tier of European countries where such limits are lowest.

The new speed limit on French highways came into force on July 1.

Albania, the Baltic States, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain all have a 90 km/h limit on such roads, which often do not have a separating guardrail.

In other countries, the limit can be as low as 70 km/h or as high as 100 km/h.

Speed limits in selected European countries, on non-urban roads


- Countries in the fast lane -


In Germany, the authorised speed on two-lane highways outside urban areas is 100 km/h. On motorways there is no limit, but in reality the average speed comes down to around 120 km/h due to roadworks.

In Austria, the limit is 100 km/h on highways and 130 km/h on motorways.

In Britain, the maximum speed on two-lane highways is 60 miles per hour (96.6 km/h) and 70 mph on motorways.

In Ireland, the speed is limited to 100 km/h on all national roads, including those with two lanes, to 80 km/h on secondary roads and to 120 km/h on motorways.

In Poland, the limit is 140 km/h on motorways and 90 or 100 km/h on other roads.


- The strictest nations -


In Sweden, the maximum authorised speed is usually 70 km/h outside towns, and 110 or 120 km/h on motorways. Some regions have since 2017 introduced limits of 80 km/h on two-lane highways.

In Belgium, the speed limit differs according to the country's regions. The limit on two-lane highways was decreased to 70 km/h in Flanders in January 2017 but remains 90 km/h in Wallonia and in the capital Brussels.

Like France from Sunday, the maximum speed on two-lane highways is 80 km/h in Bosnia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.


- Link between limits, fatalities -


Some countries, such as Sweden, have both a very low number of road deaths -- 2.6 dead per 100,000 inhabitants in 2015, according to Eurostat -- and the European Union's toughest speed limits.

But others, including Germany (4.2), Britain (2.8) and Ireland (3.5), are among the top of the class when it comes to road safety in Europe while at the same time allowing speeds of 100 km/h on highways.

France stands near the European average with 5.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

The European countries with the highest number of road deaths are Romania (9.6) and Bulgaria (9.9). Their speed limits are at the European average of 90 km/h on secondary roads in Bulgaria and 90 to 100 km/h in Romania, with a limit of 130 km/h on motorways in the two countries.

Their high accident rates are attributed in part to the poor quality of the road network and the fact that many drivers have older, run-down cars.

In Serbia, where there were 8.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016, the speed limit, which is not widely respected, is between 80 and 100 km/h.

Despite the high number of road deaths, the limit on motorways was raised to 130 km/h from 120 in April 2018, to come into line with limits in neighbouring countries.