Stop! Police!
Vanadzor (Armenia), April 15th 2014 

In Armenia, the traffic police is overrepresented in the streets. Men with big hats and even bigger police coupon books to write down traffic violations, are found on almost every street corner. Because of the bad roads, it is almost impossible to exceed the speed limits but still they are always busy. Until today, we had no idea what they had to do.

Today we were in the area of Dilijan, to visit few sights. It is exceptionally for us to have three passengers in the back and there was a great atmosphere in the car. A police car drove on the other lane of the road, meeting us driving at low speed. When he was close, the headlights flashed and the emergency lights were activated: Stop! Police! Since we didn't drive fast, we did not worry; "They'll probably want to check the vehicle documents" was our conclusion. A policeman with a cap bigger than his head, walked towards us and after checking our passports, he asked us to come along. He wanted to show us something.

In the police car, an older fellow awaits us and shows his golden teeth with a big smile. He starts a video recording, on which we see our car driving and just before the movie ends a pop-up shows that we drove 75 kilometers per hour. Then he picks up a large bookwork containing a fine table: apparently you can drive 60 kilometers an hour on this road and he reads off the table that we have to pay 10,000 Armenian Dram (about EUR 18). Obviously, we have to pay in cash!

The roads are in Armenia, however, are so bad that we never reach 75 kilometers per hour; indeed, if we had driven that fast on this road, our Toyota with its stiff suspension had already bounced off the road and our passengers had certainly hit their heads against the roof. So, our answer is a clear "No, not possible" while we point to our old car and with much acting talent we show that we would shake apart if we would drive that kind of speed on those roads. The police officers look at each other and a big grin appears on their faces. "Armenia good?" they ask us. We honestly answer that Armenia is a great country, after which we shake hands and then they speak the words we were hoping for: "You go. No Problem!".

Relieved, we walk back to the car. It is strange to know that you did not exceed the speed limit and that they still have video footage showing the contrary. This is probably the reason that drivers in the former Soviet Union often drive around with web-cams to prove their innocence if they come across with dishonest police officers. Unfair traffic police is an all too common phenomenon in these parts of the world, where this kind of scams are a common way to supplement the salary. Looking back, we think we know how they did this trick: the speed camera is probably meant to use while it doesn't move, but because the police car drove in the opposite direction with approximately 20 kilometers per hour. Therefore, the measured speed was 20 kilometers too high. Probably they thought that we would not note this and then they would have some nice extra pocket money. However, we have also heard from some notorious speeders who prefer the traffic police in the former Soviet Union over those in Western Europe. Here, it is still possible to negotiate your fine, and with a bit of luck you can get away with paying few euros. As a taxi driver in Turkmenistan once told us: "Just give them 5 euros and they let you off the hook". We are wondering whether we will have to play this game more often in the coming months, but in the three weeks we spent in Armenia, this was the first and only incident. Probably, if we were driving a brand new car, we would not have escaped these men so easily, but for now it's still "No Problem".

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