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This Is Why Nobody Speeds in Norway

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Image for article titled This Is Why Nobody Speeds in Norway

Photo: Tim Stevens

Norway has some of the best roads in the world. Pick any metric you like and you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere better. Twists and turns? Everywhere you go. Scenery? Absolutely unmatched. Even the raw asphalt is great. Somehow, despite Norway’s dire winters, the country’s roads are impeccably smooth and well-maintained. And, with bike lanes aplenty, you don’t even need to worry about cyclists hogging the road ahead — just the odd sheep here and there.

The ultimate place to own a sports car, then? Not so fast.

No, seriously, slow down. I just got back from spending two weeks driving thousands of miles over those sublime routes and I’m here to tell you why Norway is the ultimate automotive tease.

Up-Front Costs

Image for article titled This Is Why Nobody Speeds in Norway

Photo: Tim Stevens

Everything you purchase in Norway is subject to a value-added tax. VATs are common worldwide but few exceed Norway’s at 25 percent. That eye-watering fee applies to cars, too, and assuming that car was imported, there’s even more fun to pay. All-in, you’ll spend about an extra third over the MSRP of the car in question, just in taxes. This is why EVs are so very popular in Norway: They’re tax-exempt.

The cost of fuel is another good incentive. While prices have dropped significantly in Norway over the past few months, you’ll still be spending upwards of $9 per gallon for the good stuff.

Do the math and you’ll see that driving a thirsty sports car in Norway is going to be prohibitively expensive — and that’s before you think about breaking the law.

The Fines and Suspensions

Image for article titled This Is Why Nobody Speeds in Norway

Photo: Tim Stevens

Norway is held to be the most strict country in all of Europe when it comes to speeding. How bad is it?

To start, speed limits in Norway are generally low. The fastest you can legally drive is 110 km/h, roughly 68 mph, but that’s really only on divided highways and there aren’t many of those. Outside of towns, drivers will find the speed limit set to 80 km/h, about 50 mph, dropping down to 50 km/h inside of town, or 31 mph.

Speed cameras are common, triggered to fire if you’re going as little as 5 km/h over the posted limit. They’re augmented by laser-wielding police driving completely unmarked cars, often parked inconspicuously. (Those twisty roads mean lots of clever places to hide.)

Now, if you’re caught going 10 km/h over that 110 limit, the equivalent of doing 76 in a 70 mph zone, you’re looking at a 2300 NOK fine. That’s $230, which is pretty steep for six over the limit, but not terminal. Hang on, though, because things scale up from there. Break the limit by 36 km/h, or about 22 mph, and you’re looking at an 11,600 NOK fine. That’s about $1,150.

Oh, and you’ll lose your license, too.

License suspensions for seemingly minor offenses are the norm in Norway. Duration depends on the severity of the incident, but three months is the minimum. Three years is not uncommon, but it could be worse…

The Jail Time

Get caught breaking the speed limit by 46 km/h (a shade under 29 mph) in town, and you’re looking at a minimum of 18 days in jail. Mix in some other offenses, like passing in a no-passing zone, and that stay gets much longer. Should you be unlucky enough to cause an accident that results in any injury, you’re looking at upwards of six years behind bars.

Such sentences are not just rare examples, they are the norm.

Strategies

Here in the US, merely bringing a lawyer to traffic court is often enough to get your average speeding infraction dropped to a lesser charge — probably a fine and a stern finger-wag from the judge. Not so much in Norway.

Fines can be imposed on the spot if you’re pulled over and, while you are able to challenge the accusation in court, chances are that won’t fit in with your vacation plans.

Should you decide to take that route regardless, know that Norwegian courts take this sort of thing very seriously. I read dozens of court appeals while researching this article and found very few overturned convictions. One rare revision was this 2017 case of a man caught going 136 km/h in a 70 zone, which is about 84 mph in a 45. The defendant was sentenced to 21 days of jail and lost his license for 22 months.

However, the defendant appealed, claiming that their car was unable to achieve that speed. The vehicle in question, a diesel Suzuki Grand Vitara, was extensively inspected by a mechanic and, once confirmed to be malfunctioning as the defendant had described, the poor Suzuki was subjected to a maximum speed run on a test track. Only after the car was shown to top out at 111 km/h was the jail time and license suspension dropped.

The defendant still had to pay a 6500 NOK speeding fine — about $650.

So what’s the best defense against speeding penalties in Norway? It’s simple: Don’t speed. Set your cruise control at a few km/h below the limit and just enjoy the scenery. It’s what all the locals do, and trust me when I say that they’re right.

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