Sweden will lower its highway speed limit to 55 mph (90 kilometers) this summer in an effort to save lives and reduce pollution from auto emissions.
But police doubt it will work. They say it's hard enough to enforce the current 68 mph limit. And Automobile Association officials call the measure too drastic.The new limit will be in effect June 22-Aug. 20, when traffic usually increases by about 30 percent.
The environment has been a concern in Swedish politics for years and was a key issue in last fall's election. The long-entrenched Social Democrats were returned to power, but the Environment Party won enough votes to become the first new party in parliament in more than 60 years.
Swedish highways join those of Norway and Ireland as the slowest in Europe. West Germany has no top limit on its autobahns, and most other European countries have a 62 to 74 mph limit.
Authorities argue that the lower limit will cut emissions of nitrogen oxides by 35 to 40 percent. Nitrogen oxides cause acid rain.
Tomas Nilson of the Automobile Association, which has 200,000 members, says car emissions "have extremely marginal effects" on the environment.
He says the association has "a certain understanding" for the decision to lower speed limits if it can save lives, "but it is wrong to lower speeds everywhere."
The government's decision attempts to reverse a trend of the last several years of faster driving on Swedish roads even though speed limits were not increased. Police blame speeding on more powerful cars and drivers under more stress in their daily lives.
Traffic police have had little success combating speeding even though they deployed more motorcycle cops, helicopters, radar and cars equipped with speed-recording video cameras.
The government's Traffic Council Agency said in a report that, with the slower speeds this summer, between 10 and 20 lives could be saved and 100 to 200 fewer people would be injured.