Busted!

Yesterday, I had one of my very rare brushes with the police and it turned out to be quite an eye opener.

We were gliding down wisłostrada on our way to the theatre Polski to see “Przygody Sindbada Żeglarza” (Sinbad The Sailor) when I saw behind me a burgundy coloured Opel Vectra (V6turbo) with some nice blue flashing lights behind the front grill. At first I thought it was just a pimped-up Opel but when it pulled in front of me I noticed it also had a pop-up sign on the real parcel shelf that said “Police – Stop” in big red letters. We pulled over to the side and a nice lady police officer came over to my window for a chat.

'Ello 'ello 'ello!

She explained that I had been travelling at 130kph where the speed limit was only 80kph, not a good start I thought. I declined the opportunity to argue about why a six lane super-highway has such a silly speed limit because I know how handy it is for topping up the police Christmas fund or as a place to hang around when they are bored of not having caught anyone recently. My beloved wife was also caught in the same general area where the limit drops even further to a ludicrous 50kph!

She then asked to see my car registration document, which I gave her. On inspecting the inside pages she couldn’t help noticing that the car was overdue for a “technical inspection”, MOT in Brit language. As a spoilt company car driver I’m a bit ignorant of what is needed in Poland in this regard, although not anymore. When a car passes three years it needs an inspection. My car passed the three years in August and thanks to the inordinate delay in the arrival of the new Volvo it was/is still being driven by yours truly only now it was illegal for me to do so. Needless to say the police lady was not too impressed with this either.

As a final coup de grâce, she asked me for my papers. Now, I’ve explained before about the very silly piece of paper they gave me as my new residence permit. Well, it is so silly that I decided for the time being not to carry it with me, I also hate carrying my passport around so the sum total of “papers” I had with me was my British (EU) driving license. I explained to the lady about the very silly EU residence permit and she gave me a look that sort of said “Are you seriously telling me you don’t have any papers on you in addition to the speeding and the missing technical inspection?”.

At this point, technically speaking, I was screwed & facing life without the possibility of parole. I think having my family in the car helped a lot, at least to convince her that there was no need to confiscate the car and drag me off to a cell to think about what a bad boy I’d been. After some amiable chatter we agreed 8 points and 300 zlots in cash. It had to be cash because I couldn’t sufficiently prove who I was for them to rely on a transfer and I did get a proper written ticket for it.

The most suprising things about this episode are:

  • The policewoman was extremely nice about the whole thing whilst being firm about the rules at the same time.
  • They do actually appear to have registered some points against my license and were not telling me I should get a Polish one. This is new because in the past they took one look at the non-Polish license, told me my license was no good and gave up. I suspect they have a new computer system at last. How can I check if I actually have any points or not, by the way?
  • Increasing use of unmarked police cars. There was another one on the same stretch of road this morning, a grey Passat this time.
  • Given my triple-crime, I think they showed a humane amount of mercy.
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12 thoughts on “Busted!

  1. Maybe this is the new image of Polish police – “be nice, but businesslike”. Maybe she was enchanted by a foreigner…

    Unmarked cars – do you realise how much proceeds from speeding fines total to. It’s an exceccent way of reducing budget deficits, the only detail owing to which it doesn’t hang together is that the police need to buy a mid-class car (one sets them back around 100,000 PLN).

    The MOT needs to be renewed after 3, then 5 years and then every single way. Renault do it in their dealerships along with annual overhauls.

    Does your company replace company cars every three years? Mine is cutting down on its fleet, but our policy is to sell the “used-up” cars after 6 years or when a car’s mileage reaches 180,000 kilometres – seems more reasonable.

    Wisłostrada is a nice road, but for me 130 kmph is too fast there, around 90 kpmh would be a fine speed for me, but I’m an inexperienced and careful driver (I do occupy the right lane, unless there is a jerk who prefers to move slowlier, then I pull out to the middle one to overtake).

    PS. spoilt, not spolit company car driver ;)

    Will get in touch with you around the weekend.

  2. Ian: you Warsawians and your lead-composite feet. :) …300 PLN isn’t too bad at all, considering that if you’d been caught doing that in Sweden or Norway you’d likely end up paying roughly 20-30 times that much (or more).

    A couple of other comments: 99.5% of the time, I carry my passport with me. It is THE document that all foreigners need to have on them at ALL times, regardless of what Polish ID/documentation may have been issued. I was stopped by the cops several times after I moved here and before I made a point to drive the speed limits “almost all of the time” and they ALWAYS asked for my passport, giving my Polish-issued ID hardly a second glance. Hell, they hardly ever even looked at my American license.

    The above being said, I haven’t been stopped by the police in Poland in 4+ years. It’s good to see that they are taking things a lot more seriously but not being total dicks about everything.

    Last thing: while I wouldn’t want to see any of my friends have to pay 3000-6000 PLN for a ticket, 300 PLN isn’t much of a deterrent especially when someone is doing 50 kph over the speed limit. It may have been, arguably, safe when Ian was doing it in this case but it often is not and I dislike giving very much discretion to the cops.

  3. It was “safe”, honestly, this truly is a case of the speed limit being wrong for the road. It should be 110 on that road, so I’d still be speeding but not by such an apparently horrible margin.

    I appreciate that I lay myself open to all kinds of criticism here but I’m not a habitual speeder and haven’t had an accident for goodness knows how many years, 30 probably, despite other drivers trying very hard to force me into one!

  4. I had to chuckle at the part where you didn’t have your papers (or should I say the tiny piece of paper!) after all you’d gone through to get it. *Chuckle* Yes, you will have to slow down and keep your eye on the speedometer :)

  5. The thing is, they lay speed traps and the police hide and you never know when you’ll get a ticket, so it’s best to always abide by the speed limit without questioning whether it’s safer to go faster or not–it’s pushing your luck.

  6. Back in June I was stopped for speeding. The policeman who came to the car asked for my driving licence, looked at it and took me to the police car and then left. The man in the car saw it was an English licence, told me it was 200zl fine and asked where I was coming from. I told him I was coming from Italy and he then told me, perhaps intending to ask, “Nie ma dowód”, or whatever. I’d never been asked for this before and didn’t equate it with my car registration document still in my pocket. Since I just looked blank, he said that he couldn’t put it on the computer and “what should we do?”. The money was in view in my hand and I thought he wanted to have a personal gift, but instead he just told me to go. No request for my passport, which I understood was not necessary now that Poland is part of Schengen – the driving licence is enough. Did she actually ask for the residence document/passport or did you just volunteer your information?

  7. Coming home from work the other side of the street goes to the xpressway and there were cops stopping cars. Probably one of their random spot checks for permits and tires. My new registration sticker is still in my purse and not on the window. (it’s not so easy getting the old off and putting on the new because of the window slant and steering wheel in my way) I made a quick right turn away from those turkeys. I better put that sticker on soon me thinks.

  8. Scatts – I absolutely agree that some speed limits are absurd, just revenue raisers. And I too speak as one who has had no serious accident, ever, in 58 years of driving, but who collected points for exceeding a 30-mph speed limit on an urban dual carriageway on dry roads at midday.

    You certainly fared well in the circumstances. I find it hard to imagine your not ending up at the police station in Britain. Nor would you be likely to encounter such professional good manners, not even with your charm.

    Have you really had the VW three years? How time flies…

  9. Could that picture along with your blog, be fairly labelled “A Fair Cop?” ( now where’d I leave me coat) :-)
    Any road up Ian, Gan canny man!.. You might be a good driver, but by the sound of things you could fall victim to some idiot who isn’t

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