Saturday, February 23, 2013

Points

It's a simple concept.  Your local cops set up a speed trap with a fancy technology camera.  The Germans have taken this to many different levels.  You have permanent cameras now mounted in dozens of cities throughout Germany....some are hidden well enough that it takes a year or two for the public to figure out the location.

The portable units?  They work just as well....but these attract court cases.  Huns will get angry and decide to challenge the cops in the case.....he hires some no-name guy who has studied blitz cameras from top to bottom....and knows the forty questions to ask in court.  Eventually, the judge realizes that it's not a thing of perfection, and tosses the case out.  Huns wins, the government loses, and some expert chalks up another victory.

For Americans, this is a curious thing to view.  In rural areas of Germany.....you could go for years without seeing a single blitz camera.  In some urban areas....like Wiesbaden, you could pass a permanent camera every single day on the way to work.

Three times in my life....in Germany....I've had the red light flash.  Strangely enough....I've never received the notice.  Maybe luck?  Sometimes, they have trouble in reading your tag, or the lens is out of focus.  The truth is that I grumbled for three weeks over each ticket that I expected....how I was twenty kilometers over the speed limit.....and it might be a one-hundred-fifty Euro fine.  Then I'd chill out, and feel enormous relief after two months with no ticket coming to my door.

I know of a guy who got three such tickets in one year....losing his license because he exceeded the yearly allowance for points....all due to the blitz cameras.  He would readily admit that he often speeded, and the excessive speed really adds up on point totals.

Once you get up to fourteen to seventeen points....you have to attend a driver's seminar (mandatory).  Figure the cost on you to be at least one hundred Euro, plus an entire Saturday just sitting there and acting interested.

Points on parking?  Typically one point each.

Points at a pedestrian parking zone?  Four points.

Acting like an illegal taxi, with no permit?  Three points.

Intoxicated?  Four points, but they can yank your license automatically on that deal.

Bad tread on your tire, which triggered an accident?  Three points.

Failure to yield?  Three points.

Got up to eighteen points?  You lose the license for a month....no questions asked....no waiver....no help from a judge.  Your wife or friends better be compassion enough to come by and haul you to work.

Drunk and caused an accident?  Seven points are automatic, but the judge can haul you up for fancy charges and it's possible to get from six months to five years in prison....even if you didn't hurt the other guy.  Your license?  It could be seized for up to five years.  Your life gets awful miserable with a little stupid mistake like this.

Caught by the cops at a stop for drinking (no accident or damage), and under the age of twenty-one?  Oh my.....that's a ban from driving for one month.  Caught a second time before age twenty-one?  That's three months of a ban.  Plus the judge can ask for a thousand Euro fine.

For an American, it is a pretty harsh environment in Germany in terms of driving.  Germans don't write rules and just look the other way.  Once you make a law in Germany....it's completely enforced, with no pity by anyone much. If you don't like the driving rules....just plant yourself in the middle of a city....ride the subway or bus system....and be happy without a car.

When you finally sit and ask a German why such stringent rules....the general response will be that life isn't a simple walk in the woods.  Society doesn't function without rules in place.

So you start to reflect upon German society.  The rules and the blitz camera are there....just as subtle reminders.  Avoid stupid mistakes and you will live to a ripe old age.

Maybe there's a point to all of this.  Sadly, we are back to that point system....this time in life (not the 18-point variety that takes your license away), points might be worth something.  

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