German police: Random traffic stops not targeting Americans with expired licenses
By MARCUS KLOECKNER AND JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 21, 2015
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Despite the timing of random traffic checkpoints set up Wednesday around the Kaiserslautern and Baumholder military communities, German police officials said they were not targeting American drivers with expired stateside licenses.
The traffic stops began at various off-base locations Wednesday morning. That’s about one week after U.S. military officials confirmed that some German states, including Rhineland-Palatinate, are enforcing what the military says is a new requirement that Americans have a current stateside license, as well as a U.S. Army Europe license to legally drive on German roads.
But, despite the timing, officials with the police department in Kaiserslautern said the traffic stops were being conducted to meet annual requirements and to train police cadets — and were not targeting Americans.
In Baumholder, deputy chief of police Herman-Josef Decker said: “We do not do special checks for Americans.”
In the Kaiserslautern area, where at least four checkpoints were reported, including in downtown Weilerbach and near the Vogelweh and Pulaski military installations, a police spokeswoman said such traffic stops are a routine part of police business.
But if an American were stopped, he or she would be expected to have a valid stateside license as well as a USAREUR license, she said.
Traffic stops at various locations were expected to continue but police officials could not say on which days.
During a traffic stop, German police may ask to see documentation, check for the required safety triangle, vest and first aid kit; or assess whether a car’s tires are adequate, among other checks.
Military officials on Wednesday advised Americans to take any citations received to their military police station and base legal office and to notify their chain of command.
Meantime, base officials at Ramstein Air Base confirmed that for Americans driving on base, a current USAREUR certificate of license and a valid ID are sufficient.
Last week, USAREUR officials warned personnel without a current stateside driver’s license to avoid driving on public roads while the U.S. seeks to clarify with Germany what USAREUR says is a new policy governing driving rules in the country.
German law enforcement officials in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate have warned that violators could have their cars impounded or towed and could face fines or even confinement for repeat offenses.
While several other German states have indicated that they also will impose the new license policy, there have been no signs yet of enforcement outside Rhineland-Palatinate, according to USAREUR.
USAREUR requires a valid stateside license when a member of the military community first applies for a USAREUR license, but generally has not asked to see a valid stateside license for renewal.