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Do we need cops at minor car accidents?

Published: 14 Aug 2012 10:45 GMT+02:00

Hubert Wimber, president of the Münster police force says about a third of his officers’ time is taken up dealing with minor traffic accidents which really don’t need police presence to be sorted out.

Adults should be able to deal with the consequences of a small prang – exchanging details and making sure all is in order. Wimber said his officers would be better deployed “catching proper crooks” rather than acting as administrators for insurance companies.

The police escorts for special transports should also be scrapped, he said, in favour of private firms which, if specially trained, could easily perform such tasks.

One might think that police forces struggling with budgets might be happy not to have to deal with car dinks, but both police unions rejected the suggestion that they no longer be called to the scene of small accidents.

One warned that those involved could act irrationally and a figure of authority should be there to ensure the situation remains calm and make sure everything is legal and correct.

Do we need a cop to show up for every minor accident? Does the presence of a uniform or two defuse a situation which could otherwise escalate? Or could someone such as an Ordnungsamt official currently used to dole out parking fines do the same job?

Would farming out special load escort duties be the thin end of the police privatisation wedge? Or is it sensible – keep police officers solving and preventing crime.

Should adults be able, and expected, to sort out small administrative details themselves – or is leaving cops out of the equation asking for trouble? Have your say.

Registered users of The Local may add their comments in the field below. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here – it’s free and only takes a moment.

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Your comments about this article

13:46 August 14, 2012 by Sharemarketzone
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:02 August 14, 2012 by srimahesh
No need its an good idea not to call Police.
16:11 August 14, 2012 by IchBinKönig
there may need to be lower paid officers within the police force that deal exclusively with accidents.
16:55 August 14, 2012 by Lisa Rusbridge
In the US fender benders do not require the presence of police. If both cars are able to still be driven off the roadway in order not to block traffic then the drivers sort out the situation, exchange personal information and insurance details. Oftentimes if it's only a scratch or dent both parties agree to skip filing the insurance claim and simply pay out of pocket. And its all done with very civil behavior without any police being present or even informed.

I tend to think the Germans like submitting to authority and enjoy official procedures and bureaucratic red tape. I can't think of one person I know here (USA) who even begins to think like that. The president of the police force who is quoted for this article is absolutely correct. Or to put it another way: the German people do not always need authority figures to be present in order to act in a civil manner or to be their daddy if things in life don't go perfectly.
17:37 August 14, 2012 by heathen
@lisa: most of your assertions are correct for the usa. however, i recommend getting the police involved if the other motorist who is at cause happens to be uninsured or undocumented, so that your uninsured motorist portion of your policy is upheld by your insurance company.
19:23 August 14, 2012 by The-ex-pat
Calling out the police serves one thing and one thing only, the good old blue chit. Cut and dry as to who is at fault. Without this bit of sacred paper the insurance companies will only give us a big run around and drag the claim out over months and not days as is my experience. If the police are so concerned charge a call out fee. They will see a 99% drop in call outs because Germans and a few people hear are so tight they have to use WD40 as a deodorant so they don't squeak as go about their day to day activities and secondly, as pointed out the insurance will give you all the run around until the cows come home. Me, I would pay, a blue chit in the hand is worth every Euro that it would cost to call the police out. Also at the end of the day, €10, €50 or €100 is peanuts compared to the cost of even a small scratch on a car and the fight to prove liability afterwards.
20:16 August 14, 2012 by Livioxxx
If police does not come anymore the number of court cases will rise for sure.
08:34 August 15, 2012 by wood artist
Most "fender benders" don't require a police presence. In the US, which is an society full of "I'm the victim" people, these are usually handled between the drivers, and seldom does a problem arise.

In the old days, it often came down to "he said, she said" arguments and the insurance companies were left to sort it out. Now, with cell phone cameras to document the scene, there's less of that simply because a quick picture will show who was out of their lane, etc. Usually, not always though, witnesses are willing to help should the need arise, and it's just not really a big thing.

On the other hand, an officer can be handy when it's clear that somebody ran a light or made an illegal turn. The problem is that most officers don't want to write those tickets, usually because they can't testify in court to what happened...because they didn't actually see it. Such is life.

Is Germany that different? How many times to these things actually become an "argument'" at the scene? The Germans I've met seem quite capable of sorting things out, even if they disagree about who was at fault. These days I suspect the police have better things to do a fair bit of the time.

wa
04:26 August 19, 2012 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
No, I don't need the police to help me with a fender bender. I don't need them to help me when I accidentally break my neighbor's window, either; nor when I need to go use the restroom.

Ridiculous nanny culture.
11:36 August 19, 2012 by neilr
Main problem I see is that even the most minor damage such as a cracked wing mirror results in both cars being kept in position blocking the road until the police arrive. This causes massive traffic jams, because as I understand it nobody is allowed to move until the police have completed their investigation. For accidents causing injuries or if one of the cars is rendered undriveable I can see the point, but for a cracked number plate or wing mirror?
12:06 August 20, 2012 by iseedaftpeople
the few times I have been in a fender bender accident here, police were no help at all. They kept moping around that they were called out for such a minor accident with "just a few dents", then they took down our details and left again. The rest was up to us, like calling a towing company or whatever. The only ways you really benefit from police presence is when the other party's details and back story seem sketchy, or you get in a fight, or your damage is much worse than theirs. But other than that, it's really just an insurance matter that you can handle on your own like grownups and without the cops.

@neilr:

don't get me started... people seem to think that somehow at all cost they must not alter the scene of the accident in any way, so even if it's just a busted taillight, they adamantly refuse to get out of the road, and they're often creating a sizeable traffic jam in the process. But when was the last time those self-important dolts actually saw CSI-style forensics teams home in on a fender bender...
16:48 September 18, 2012 by Mr Goodmorning
Seems to me that this a waste of police resources. Where I'm from, Massachusetts, one only calls the police if there is estimated to be over a certain dollar amount of damage (I think it's $1,000), the cars can not be moved or if there is an injury. For any other situation, one gets an accident report form from the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), which asks the operator to describe the situation and has a roadway diagram, and submits it to the local police department, RMV and insurance companies for all involved. The insurance companies determine fault through the information on the accident report forms submitted.
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