Speeding puts drivers on fast track to nowhere
October 5, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- For many drivers, speeding tickets are a constant threat. The flare of red and blue or the flash of a traffic camera can mean steep fines, points on a license and even long-term driving suspension.
Those who drive on the garrison and on local roads must deal with two sets of cops, regulations and punishments when caught speeding.
Police Lt. Dean Vertz, Rose Barracks watch commander, oversees all military police during his shift. According to Vertz, Europe-based MPs cannot give out speeding tickets that stipulate fines. Instead, they give Armed Forces Traffic Citations, which add points to the license of those caught zipping along garrison roads, instead of extracting fines.
Netzaberg Hill has one of the largest concentrations of speeders in the garrison, according to Vertz. Contrary to conventional wisdom, he added, more drivers receive speeding tickets going up Netzaberg hill than down.
"It seems that most people going down the hill concentrate on their speed."
One Community Road is another hotspot for hurried drivers. Though many drivers get caught up by the slow speed limit on the road, Vertz asserts that due to wildlife, tactical-vehicles and heavy snow and rain conditions, the 60-kilometers per hour limit is necessary.
After a citation is given to a driver, the MP office sends notification to the driver's commander, sponsor or supervisor. The responsible party must OK the citation before points are levied against the driver.
When particularly reckless drivers rack up continual citations, they run the risk of a suspended license. Twelve points over the course of a year or 18 points over two years means a year-long suspension of the USAREUR license.
Vertz explained that unlike U.S. policemen, who lie in wait for their prey, the German polizei tend to rely on speed cameras to catch those who put the pedal to the metal.
When a speeding driver gets flashed on the economy, the polizei send the owner of the vehicle a questionnaire, asking for basic info like name and address, explained Polizeioberkommissar Gerhard Maenner from the German Police Liaison Office. The owner must then send back the questionnaire completely filled out before the legal office and unit are notified about the misdeed.
When Soldiers and family members get in trouble for neglected traffic tickets, it's usually because of confusion surrounding the German language questionnaire, said Maenner.
"It takes a very long time from the speeding to when the owner gets the ticket," said Maenner. "It could be two or three months. And some of these people forget it. Another problem is that the legal questionnaire is in German and they can't read it."
For those who have trouble deciphering the questionnaire, Maenner suggests taking the document to the host nation attorneys or to him at the MP station in Rose Barracks.
Germany tends to be more exacting against egregious speeders and lenient toward casual speeders than the MPs on post.
Going a few kilometers over the speed limit will warrant a minor fine, but flagrant violations of the limit means points, hefty fines and license suspension.
A license suspension is the most debilitating penalty for drivers. A typical suspension lasts one to four months, and is coupled with a 160-euro or more fine.
"I was going 30 (kilometers) over in Geismannskeller, in between Gate 6 and Gate 9," said community member Ann Bruennig. "I was in a hurry to get home and I was going 80 (kilometers per hour) instead of 50. Because I was going 30 over, I lost my license for four weeks."
Bruennig added that after she got flashed by the speed camera, four months passed before she finally received her ticket.
The polizei give transgressors a four-month window in which to give up their licenses in an attempt to soften the blow of having to mooch rides off friends for four weeks.
"For some people it's very hard if they are working and need the car to get to work," said Maenner.
Savvy drivers can even time their suspension for when they take leave.
Of course, speeding increases the likelihood of accidents. Maenner says the main goal of ticketing for speed is to keep the roads safer for all drivers.
"It's not the job of the police to make more money, but to make a better security situation, to make the traffic safer."