Sunday, January 13, 2008



When we spent our summer vacation in Sicily in 2004, I often wondered why some road signs in Sicily listed detailed information about the relevant laws and even the specific section and paragraph of the act.

Since 2006, the immission control act Immissionsschutzgesetz-Luft (IG-L) has been enacted in Austria, which allows authorities to impose certain restrictions on production facilities, traffic, and outdoor combustion to reduce immissions when pollution thresholds are exceeded.

The act requires that immission control related speed limit must be signposted with reference to the act. On previous trips between Vienna and Salzburg I had complained about the unnecessary distraction by additional signs; after all I don't usually care why a speed limit has been put in place, although there is evidence that drivers are more likely to adhere to environmentally motivated speed limits (source: Luftreinhalteplan Stuttgart), and lower speeds generally mean lower emissions (source: Land Tirol: Tempo 100).

One set of road signs around Linz looks especially bizarre: a combination of lifting the 100 km/h speed limit and introducing a 100 km/h speed limit for immission control, and vice versa in the opposite direction.

Recently some of the roadsigns were replaced with large over-the-road displays which allow for dynamic speed limits depending on weather conditions, traffic flow and pollution levels, which is goodness. I wonder though how many drivers will have a clue what the big white letters IG-L next to the speed limit signs mean ...

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Do the immission-related limits take effect only specific times of the year or when a warning is issued? (eg, in the US, mostly in California, there's "Ozone" or "Air Quality" alerts which, when issued, require certain agencies and businesses to curtail emissions-producing activities, though I don't think there's any effect on speed limits).
Some restrictions are imposed during certain periods of the year, for example a 100 km/h speed limit on some highways in Tirol, other restrictions take effect only when certain thresholds are reached.

Traffic restrictions include speed limits and temporary driving bans, although the latter are rarely used.
Are electric vehicles exempt from these speed limits?
Vlad, electric vehicles (and even some plug-in hybrids) are exempt from temporary and regional bans but not from IG-L speed limits (VwGH decision, in German)
Thank you for your quick reply.
That means the IG-L speed limits have actually nothing whatsoever to do with the environment, but are just another shameful scam to get more money from the motorists, using the environment as a pathetic excuse. I suspected that, but couldn't find a straight answer anywhere.

Not really; the variable speed limits are contingent on well-defined criteria for air pollution. With the small percentage of electric vehicles, enacting different speed limits or dedicating high speed lanes to those vehicles are not practical and would negatively impact traffic safety and overall throughput of the highways.
That's their problem. They should either do it properly and honestly, or not do it at all. Going for the easiest (and most profitable) solution and then saying "sorry, doing it correctly would not be practical" is not really a proper way of winning our trust, is it?
OK, let's agree that any kind of speed limit must be adhered to by everybody, because otherwise it would be impractical. I'm OK with that. If you exceed a regular speed limit slightly, you get fined a couple of euros. If, however, you exceed an IG-L speed limit by the same amount, you get an astronomic fine, because it's treated as an environmental offence. But by the time they issue the ticket, they already know everything about you and your car. They have access to the registration info and know that the car is electric. So technically speaking, you've only broken a traffic law, but not an environment one. And they know that. So they shoud give you the regular, small fine, not the big environmental one. This would be extremely easy to implement, so practicality cannot be used as an excuse anymore.
Is this what would happen in reality? If so, then we can give them the benefit of the doubt. If not, then the IG-L limits are only about money, not the environment.

They cannot give you a fine for breaking another law that wasn't even applicable. There is no regular 100 km/h speed limit in those zones.

The IG-L speed limit is applicable and if you go faster and get caught, you pay the fine for violating that law.
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