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Pulled over by cops abroad: Indians share their first-hand experiences

Two cops came down immediately, asked us to be seated in the car with my hands on the steering wheel and my friend's hands on the dashboard, which we obliged.

BHPian TwistOFate! recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Hi everyone,

I have been a rather silent member of this wonderful community since a decade and half (also almost half my age!). My salutations to all the wonderful humans that make this community a Go-To for anything related to automobile content.

Prelude:

In February 2022, I got an opportunity to move to Luxembourg, Europe along with my family (spouse and 1.5 year old son) for long term. Since my movement was due to work reasons, I have opted for the company assisted move, which gave me access to a rental car for a period of 30 days while I'm settling in the new city/country. Three weeks since I landed in Luxembourg, I was handed over a BMW X1 Automatic for my personal use (self driven), leased with the car rental company SIXT, which is quite famous now in EU. Back in India, my daily drive was a 2021 Hyundai Venue 1.5 D Manual and all cars in our family have always been manuals.

It was a mix of a lot of "first times" when I drove the BMW X1:

  • First big brand aka luxury car.
  • First left-hand-drive vehicle.
  • First time automatic (I did drive automatics earlier, but not for a continued 30 day duration).
  • First time driving on roads outside India etc.

I have been driving cars since the legal permissible age and never did I receive any tickets for breaking the law, let alone being involved in accidents. I think I'm one of those drivers who believe vehicles should take us from point A to point B and they precisely do it if we respect both the vehicle and the laws. That said, these "first times" did land me some amount of panic, but I coped up well. One really good thing about living in Luxembourg is that you get to travel across the neighboring countries (France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland etc.) without breaking a sweat - awesome highways for cruising, wonderful machines to drive, skillful drivers on the roads and picturesque locations few hours away!

Two days into taking the car, we left for Amsterdam for the weekend. Amsterdam is approximately 400 kms away from Luxembourg - we started at 8 AM and reached by 12 noon (yes, just four hours for ~400 kms, including a 20 mins diaper change for toddler and a stretch/coffee break). Once in Amsterdam, we visited a very close friend and stayed with them for the long weekend.

Encounter 1:

This is where my first encounter with the cops happened! We were cruising down a highway (visited a cherry blossom park and returning home) and I was leading, while my friend and his family (spouse and 1.5 year old again) were following us in their Mitsubishi Outlander 4WD. We had to exit the highway towards the right right hand side, which forked into the road we should take followed by another "Bus-Only" road. I missed the "Bus-Only" signboard and entered that lane, which took us over the bridge and as we exited the bridge, we were stopped by two cop cars with strobe lights on! To my surprise, while we were on that flyover bridge, my 1.5 YO son threw up and my wife just pulled him out of the baby seat to clean him up. The cops who stopped us enquired why we entered Bus-Only lane, why our baby was not in the car seat, took my Indian driver's license for identity, ran through the car's registration papers and was super kind enough to let us go as with a soft-warning - as I explained him how Google maps tricked us into taking the bus lane and why the baby was not in his car seat. The first encounter with the European cops, although not hostile, did leave a strong impression of how quick they react and how critically they adhere to the traffic rules.

Encounter 2 (this is going to be a long one):

This was in May 2022, when I had to shift from my service apartment (SA) in Gare Central to my rental apartment (RA) in Strassen. By then, I already returned the BMW X1 and we finished a couple of trips to Belgium and France (more on these travelogues later) - courtesy self drive cars booked again via SIXT. I love this company for the wide variety of cars they host and all the cars I booked were always almost brand new (less than 1000 kms driven when I picked them up). These trips meant I was extremely familiarized and comfortable with driving in Europe by now and really loved the ease with which you can munch miles here. Coming back to the topic, anyone who lives in Luxembourg may understand, the road which connects Stareplaz to Hamilius drives through Avenue Monterey, where there is a mandatory left turn near Monterey park, which eventually merges you into Hamilius towards Gare Central. To facilitate my movement from SA to RA, I booked a car again with SIXT and was lucky to be upgraded to Audi A6 Avant (probably because of my booking history with them in the short period). Now with this bigger car at hand and our movement to the RA, we planned to visit IKEA in Belgium (but just 25 mins away from our home in Luxembourg - now you realize how easy it is to commute between countries here) to buy some household stuff. Since we did not have our Luxembourg residence cards yet and since we were crossing country borders, I carried my passport in a bag. While returning from IKEA, I realized that we inadvertently left the bag at the store (), which meant I (almost) lost my passport! We were the absolute last people to checkout from the store and the shutters were closed right in front of our eyes while we were still at the car park. By the time we realized about the bag and went back to IKEA, it was already closed and the security personnel asked us to come back next day to check our luck.

With a heavy heart (and a very heavy car with ~EUR 1000 worth of IKEA stuff), we returned to the SA and decided to move stuff to our RA in a few trips during the night. One of my closest friends who lived in France for the last two years came over to help us with the shifting & settling, and accompanied me in my trips between SA & RA for moving the luggage. Two trips went well and in the third and the last trip between SA & RA past mid-night, I was driving through this Avenue Montarey between Stareplaz and Hamilius and saw a cop car on the right in standby. I casually asked my friend if he had any experience with cops in EU and since he never drove cars in EU, it was negative. But he did say, in case cops ever turn on the strobes, pull over. Right when we were at the traffic signal (remember where we have to take mandatory left to eventually merge into the Hamilius road), the cop car was right behind us. When the signal turned Green, I inadvertently drove straight (which is again a Bus-Only lane) instead of taking the mandatory left and boom - the cop car right behind us turned on the strobes instantly. I had to pullover, but the traffic signal where I stopped earlier and the Hamilius road are probably less than 100 meters apart - I took the right turn on Hamilius road towards Gare and pulled over.

I immediately realized my offenses - driving in Bus-Only lane and not adhering to traffic signal while turning right into the road from Hamilius to Gare. Two cops came down immediately, asked us to be seated in the car with my hands on the steering wheel and my friend's hands on the dashboard, which we obliged. The cops initially inquired where we were coming from, where we were heading, if we had any weapons in the car etc. and asked us for the car registration and insurance papers. To my utter surprise, the registration of my rental car expired a few months ago (or at least they did not have the latest registration papers in the glove box). The series of events really made me extremely anxious:

  • Lost my passport the same day (retrieved it the next day luckily).
  • Two back to back traffic violations.
  • Expired car registration papers.
  • No residence card yet (basically nothing to prove I'm legally entitled to live in Luxembourg, let alone the traffic violations).

I tried calling SIXT customer support as the cops asked for valid registration documents, but again, to my utter surprise, SIXT systems across the globe were hacked a week ago and there was no customer support (live or non-live) available whatsoever. With nothing else to do, I showed my car booking details to the cops and informed there's absolutely nothing I can do to bring the current registration documents at midnight. They discussed internally and excused me for the documents, but asked me to bear the fine of approx EUR 250 for the two traffic violations.

You can take a person out of the village, but not the village out of a person.

With this quote in mind, I started negotiating with the cops, asking them to excuse me for the unmindful violations and promised not to commit them again. But they were dead-adamant about me paying the fine and asked if I would like to pay via cash or card on the spot. I looked at my friend, and this time we both pleaded for some mercy! Finally, one of the cops obliged and asked us to pay the fine of EUR 150 (approx) for one of the violations and agreed to let go off the other, as this was my first violation in EU (according to them - little did they know about the Amsterdam saga). EUR 150 to an Indian brain meant approx INR 12000. That is freaking huge sum of money, and I continued to ask them to excuse me as this was my first violation ever and promised not to break the traffic laws ever again. At this same time, the cops received an URGENT call on their sets (walkie-talkie eh?) about some scuffle happening few kilometers away, and woooosshhh! The cops excused me, handed over my Indian Driver's License and the car's documents and left the place in a jiffy (literally in a blink of an eye, they were not to be seen anymore).

I thanked all my stars for the turn of events and promised myself to never ever violate the traffic laws with these first hand experiences, which I continue to share with my family and friends.

I'm sure this community may have had similar (interesting) experiences with cops pulling over when you're driving/riding abroad. Looking forward to reading through some such KGF-ish stories here.

Here's what GTO had to say on the matter:

Very unique thread, thanks for creating . My memory is a little hazy, but here are details of the only time I was pulled over in the USA = Am driving back from my part-time on-campus job in Boston. Its like 2 or 3 AM and I am in my green '93 Honda Accord that was bought used with 90,000 miles / 160,000 km on it. I see a green / blue coloured sedan driving a bit funny, and the driver was obviously intoxicated. A few minutes later, the dreaded blue + red + white lights flash in my rear view mirror. I pull over, start my cabin lights (makes the officers comfortable) and lower down my window. Lady cop comes to my window and asks for my driving license and car papers. Gently move my hand to the glovebox and hand it to her. She asks where I'm coming from. It was obvious to her that she pulled over the wrong car & I was 100% sober. Said thanks & drove off.

Never went over the speed limit in the USA, other than the +5 or +10 mph that everyone on the freeway follows. Primary reason being, no way I could afford the speeding tickets & more expensive insurance on a student budget . $200 - 500 would hit the monthly budgeting very hard.

Here's what BHPian dust-n-bones had to say on the matter:

Nice thread. Have one experience from the US, Virginia. Had a customer workshop in DC. Rented a Nissan pathfinder. Was running late, and so on a stretch of I-85N where the speed limit had been reduced from 75 mph to 70, I was at 80 .

Drivers in every state of the US seem to have an understanding with the cops about traffic rules. In these parts, +5 on the speed limit is fine. Some people do a lot more - I imagine they do this with radar tracking apps.

Traffic cops there like to 'hide' on the medians with their radar guns on. These are just pathways for emergency vehicles to do quick U-turns on long stretches of the interstate. I also assume cops in US have city council 'targets' to meet, just like in India.

Anyway, as soon as I saw the police car pull up behind me in the rear-view mirror, there was not much left to do other than ease on to the shoulder. After the mandatory DL scan, and the 'do you realize the speed you were doing', was handed over a 'challan' with RD (reckless driving) marked on it, and asked to appear in the district court to argue or pay up.
Nothing digital about it. 'Carbon copy' (remember those?) is what I got.

The conversation is always very polite, and you always stay in your car unless the officer thinks he has to search the car or you specifically. We parted ways with 'have a safe trip sir'.

If I remember right, ended up sending a cheque for $250 to the court before the hearing.

Here's what BHPian ninjatalli had to say on the matter:

Got pulled up in the US only once (thankfully). This was back in 2014 when I had landed in Chicago only a month ago and had rented a sedan for a long weekend holiday. Picked up the car on a chilly evening in the city and was driving back home to the suburbs when I saw a cab driver next to me franticly waving his hands to get my attention. Turns out there was a cop car with lights all blazing right behind me and he had been so for a while.

I immediately pulled over to the shoulder, ready with my documents, and with a bit of fear in my mind; I surely didn't expect to be pulled over on my first drive in the country. He walked over, glanced at my documents from afar; and asked me if this was a rental car. I nodded in the affirmative and then he relaxed his pose and informed me that I was driving without the headlights on; and given it was already getting dark, it was a safety hazard. I muttered some excuse saying I wasn't aware of the exact switch so I'd take care to do so from there. He nodded his head and asked me to continue on.

On that note, with no warnings or ticket, we moved on and I was visibly relived at my lucky 'escape'. To be honest, I was quite surprised by his demeanor and the concern to stop me for something that wouldn't be given a second's consideration in India.

Here'swhat BHPian condor had to say on the matter:

Three incidents in 2001 - 2002, both in the USA.

I had moved to the bay area on an assignment, and being in the first few months of driving, was very cautious. Was trying to merge onto the freeway when I got a call. I pulled over to the side on the on-ramp (level road, actually) and was talking when a cop car pulled over and asked why I had stopped there. Told her the reason, and she asked me to cut the call and keep moving.

Second time was in Nevada, driving on a 2-lane country road. Missed the speed limit and was doing 70. Dont know from where, but saw a police car following me with lights flashing. Basic rule - flashing lights means slow down and let him pass. If he slows down behind you, then pull over. I pulled over, and he came up to the co-driver door. Usual conversation happened, and he took my licence for the usual check. As he was going back to his car for the check, I asked him if I can step out . The response was a stern No. Waited there, quite shaken. He came back soon with a ticket. Had to mail in the fine.

There used to be a talk that if we get a ticket out of state, then we pay a little extra - even a dollar, so that there are no points on your licence. The story was that the system cross-checks the fine amount vs what is paid, and if there is excess, then (Dont know how) the case is not closed. Since not closed, the points are not marked. Sounds silly now, though. I mailed in the fine amount later. Luckily no points on me for that speeding incident. I wonder if there was aerial monitoring which resulted in me being pulled over.

A third incident:

Me, a friend and his room mate went out driving in upstate NY during winter. Between us, we had 3 DSLRs and one P&S. The Unplanned drive took us to a dam which had frozen waters. The scene looked interesting, and we started taking snaps. Soon enough a police car with flashing lights was spotted. We quickly put the cameras in the bag, and waited. The cops came, and asked us what were we doing. We answered, after which he asked us for our identities. Went back to his car and looks like he did a quick verification. Me working in Stamford, CT and the other two in Boston, MA. After some time, came back and gave us a warning and let us off.

Looking back, it could have been folks in another car which passed us, saw us taking pics and called the cops. Reservoirs means security and here we were 3 desi's taking pics. This was sometime after 9/11, and it was easy for people to hit the panic button. I still have the pics somewhere.

Here's what BHPian Vid6639 had to say on the matter:

Got pulled over once in the USA on the freeway. Limit was 65mph but I was closer to 80mph since all cars were doing the same.

Cop asked do you know why I pulled you over. I told him nopes, I do not know the reason. Maybe rental car?

He said no, this is a 65mph road. I was like yeah but I was just following the other cars at the same speed.

He goes yeah I can see that. Then he asks me, "Have you ever gone fishing?" Told him nopes I haven't.

His reply: "You can never catch all the fish when you're fishing"

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Luckily I got let off with a warning. I think he pulled me over so all other cars see a car being pulled over and slow down as well.

Here's what BHPian the_real_stager had to say on the matter:

I had a rather interesting encounter with Dutch cops recently. We live in Ravels, a small town right inside the Belgian border with Holland and my in laws live in Goirle, another small town inside the Dutch Border. We cross the border like twice a day for various reasons through the country rode connecting both the countries.

One early morning I was dropping off my 6-month-old son to my in laws and while crossing the border, saw a Dutch patrol van at the border. The moment I crossed them, I saw they started the van. They followed me for like 500 meters or so, then overtook me and put the ‘Volgen’ sign on their back window. This means, I need to follow them to a stop at the next possible section of the road.

I slowed down, followed them and stopped behind them at the shoulder of the road a few 100 meters ahead. Two young cops get out and come to the passenger side window. I roll it down. My baby is the front seat in his child seat with the front air bag turned off.

Cop 1 asked me where I am going. To which I replied I am going to my in laws in Goirle to drop my child. To which he asks me if I have ID of my baby. Unfortunately, we never carried his ID till then for small trips like this which we make at least twice a day. I explained this to the cop and he asks for my ID. I give him my Belgian ID. Remember this is the Dutch police. There is one curious thing about my Belgian ID. In my Indian passport, I did not have a Surname. So, when I got the Belgian ID, my surname was marked XXX, so in the name part it is Kiron Rajendran, and Surname is just XXX.

So, the cop asks me why I do not have surname and then I had to explain the whole story. (I have to do it most of the time at Immigration when I fly). Meanwhile, I had my son’s Dutch passport in my phone as an image and I showed them that. But unfortunately, my son does not have a surname as I do not have one and so looking at the passport, you cannot understand if we are father and son, as we do not have a shared surname.

So, the cops are again confused. They go to their car and check my ID in their system and it shows I have a son and wife who are Dutch citizens, phew. And that my son’s name in their registry matches the one from his passport.

The cop told me he was a bit worried as there are many cases where in case of spousal problems, one partner might abscond with the child and he had to verify everything was good in my case.

Through almost 30 minutes of this encounter my baby slept through, I was in my car and the cops were very friendly and polite. They apologized for the delay and requested me to have the child’s ID with me all the time. I acknowledged, wished them a nice day and was off with an interesting story to tell my in laws who were expecting us 30 minutes earlier.

Kiron.

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