Proceed with caution - at your own chosen speed
Here's the thing about driving on public roadways: they have speed limits. We take it as a given – and do our best to obey – because that's the only way that sharing said roadways with the rest of the motoring public could possibly work. Right?
Only that's not necessarily the case. Sure, the vast majority of highways and jurisdictions around the world have speed limits –some more clearly posted and some more strictly enforced than others. And we would never advocate breaking them with any degree of abandon that would even border on reckless. But there are a handful of places in the world where you can, technically speaking, drive as fast as you please – conditions permitting. Want to know where they are? Then follow us through this (unfortunately brief) slideshow.
Arguably the most famous derestricted roadways in the world are part of Germany's Autobahn system. The network of federal highways is one of the longest and most dense in the world – and a large portion of it has no speed limit whatsoever.
Of the 8,000 miles of Autobahn crisscrossing the country, roughly half allow for driving flat-out – conditions permitting. Approximately one third of the roadways have permanent speed limits posted, and temporary speed limits are imposed on the remaining sixth when traffic or weather conditions call for it. An advisory speed limit of 81 miles per hour applies even on the derestricted sections, and drivers can find themselves ticketed if they're driving recklessly. The highway patrol also strictly enforces rules relating to tailgating and hogging the left lane. But if you stay within the confines of the law and commence sense (as uncommon as it may be), there's no better place to see how fast your car can go – even if most German automakers voluntarily limit all but their most powerful models to 155 mph.
The Isle of Man
If we told you there was an entire country with no national speed limit, would you believe us? Well such a place exists – in so far, at least, that you can consider a British Crown dependency its own country. We're referring to the Isle of Man, one of three territories in the British Isles that are not technically part of the United Kingdom, even though they are presided over by the Queen.
Whatever the type of government, you'll note that it has refrained from posting a national speed limit on the entire island, small as it is. There are local speed limits in built-up or poorly paved areas, and you can get in trouble for driving recklessly like you would anywhere else. But short of that, you can drive however fast the conditions allow. Little wonder that its roads play host every spring to the world-famous Tourist Trophy motorcycle race – known as the Isle of Man TT – and that Jeremy Clarkson and Nigel Mansell both keep homes there.
Australia's Stuart Highway
Up until a decade ago, the entire Northern Territory of Australia had no absolute speed limit whatsoever. That all changed on January 1, 2007, when the region adopted the same traffic laws as the rest of the country. But just a couple of years ago, in a move we could all get behind, the local government removed the speed limit from part of the Stuart Highway.
The road runs the length of the country from Darwin in the north to Port Augusta in the south, covering a total of 1,761 miles. Most of it has a speed limit of 81 miles per hour, but in 2014 the government of the Northern Territory removed the speed limit from a 120-mile section between Alice Springs and Barrow Creek, then broadened the derestricted zone to over 170 miles last year. No wonder Bentley recently headed there to push its Continental GT Speed to its limits, reaching a terminal velocity of 206 miles per hour on the public roadway.
India is hardly what we would call a driver's paradise, and most of the country has fairly low speed limits. But several of its states place no limit on the speed at which cars can travel.
Those include Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana – all of which have refrained from imposing speed limits on light passenger vehicles. In Maharashtra, even most classes of heavier vehicles that are subject to speed limits are still allowed to travel at up to 124 miles per hour – except for multiple trailers that can “only” be towed at 93 mph.
Of course most of the cars made in India – made by the likes of Tata, Mahindra, and Maruti Suzuki – can't get up to very high speeds anyway, and don't even get us started on all those motorized rickshaws and scooters. We couldn't vouch for the condition of the country's roadways, either. But where the right combination of vehicle and highway exist, a good third of the India's constituent states will permit driving flat out.
Montana circa 1995-99
There was a brief window of time when one of these United States had no absolute speed limit. That was the Big Sky state in the late 1990s, when drivers were only advised to drive in a “reasonable and prudent” manner during daylight hours.
The trouble was that the ambiguous guidelines left it up to law enforcement in Montana to decide what was indeed reasonable or prudent, making it difficult for drivers to stay on the right side of the law. So late in 1998, the state supreme court deemed the regulations impossible to enforce fairly and instructed the state government to impose an empirical, quantifiable speed limit. But even with the “reasonable and prudent” guidelines abolished, Montana still has some of the highest speed limits in the nation, and they could grow even higher. As it is, some of its rural freeways have speed limits posted as high as 80 miles per hour – matched only in parts of Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.