By Nadine Bower
USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs
It happens so fast. Your bumper scrapes another car while you are trying to fit your American-sized vehicle into a tiny German parking spot. What next? Do you act like nothing happened, because you’re sure that nobody saw it, or do you wait around, risking that it may take hours for the owner of the damaged vehicle to appear? Do you leave a note on the other car, because you have an urgent appointment to get to?
“The worst thing you can do is to drive off,” said Birthe Fink, police senior inspector with the Westhesse Police Directorate, Fourth Precinct. “Driving off without notifying the German police, the U.S. military police or the owner of the damaged vehicle is a criminal offense and can be punished with up to three years in prison or with a monetary fine, depending on the circumstances.”
Even if the damage is very minor and if you cannot find the owner of the vehicle, you should call the local German police, and they will let you know what to do. In Stuttgart, you can dial 110, the emergency and non-emergency number for the Polizei. The phone numbers for the Stuttgart Military Police are 431-3102/3095 or 07031-15-3102/3095. Off-post accidents must be reported to the MPs within 72 hours.
In most cases, the police will send a vehicle to check out the damage, but sometimes they might just ask you for your information and the details of the accident and allow you to leave. However, if you do not speak German or if the police operator on the phone does not speak enough English, you can also call your local U.S. military police station.
“It is very important that you actively try to report the accident either to the German police or to the MPs,” Fink said. “The MPs will establish the connection to the German Polizei.” Looking for witnesses and documenting their names and contact information can also help.
Important documents that you should always have with you besides your driver’s license are your vehicle registration and your vehicle inspection paperwork.
U.S Forces drivers should also carry the Army in Europe Form 190-1Y with their registration. This single-page form provides drivers with basic instructions of what to do if involved in a traffic accident and has a place to fill in local emergency numbers. If leaving Germany, drivers should also carry their green proof of insurance cards provided by their insurance company. This will help drivers if they have to appear in court and when insurance companies need information.
Accidents of any kind always have to be reported to the German police and the U.S. military police. When there is only minor damage, move your vehicle to the side after safely taking detailed pictures of the accident. Always make sure that you have the emergency phone number of the German police and the U.S. military police programmed in your phone and call them, even when in doubt.
More info and a cheat sheet
For a step-by-step process of what to do if you have an accident, plus a link to a cheat sheet to keep in your glove compartment, visit www.stuttgartcitizen.com.