As previously reported by The Brussels Times, the Federal Police launched a two-day crackdown on distracted driving on 17-18 May against distracted driving and the use of phones behind the wheel.
This led to a staggering 2,445 recorded offences and 503 withdrawn licences, according to a press release by the Belgian Federal Police.
The Federal Road Police, alongside 110 local police zones across the country, carried out heightened checks for distracted driving across Belgium.
Distracted driving can take many forms, be it eating at the wheel, putting on makeup, fiddling with a Satnav, or most commonly, using a mobile phone. 25% of all road accidents in Belgium are caused by distracted driving.
Put down the phone
A recent study by the Walloon Agency for Road Safety (AWSR) revealed that almost a quarter of Walloons, a majority young men, admit to texting or emailing while driving.
Over 48 hours, the Federal Police organised checkpoints all over the country to catch road-users driving while holding their phones or having them in their laps. In total, 2,387 offences were recorded, 98% of which (2331) related to the use of mobile phones.
Outside of Brussels, using a phone behind the wheel is an offence that can easily cost you your licence. Indeed, the prosecutor’s office decided that 503 individuals' licences deserved to be immediately withdrawn.
The government has drastically increased the fines and penalties associated with mobile phone use and distracted driving. Fines have risen from €116 to €174, without the possibility of licence revocation.
Despite this, during a visit by Belgian Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden to a checkpoint in Wetteren, Flanders, the official witnessed several car and lorry drivers being pulled over for distracted driving offences.
“Despite the increase in fines, many drivers continue to violate the ban on using a mobile phone behind the wheel, among other things,” Verlinden stated.
Each year, mobile phones cause around 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries on Belgian roads.
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“That is why the local and Federal Police joined forces for the first time for a major, national campaign. By raising awareness and making an official report, we hope to bring about a change in mentality. And to save lives,” the minister added.
The police state that this type of action is mostly a preventative measure. By getting tough on offenders, they hope that other would-be distracted drivers will think twice before answering texts behind the wheel.
“Be prepared. Setting your GPS, taking off your jacket, fixing your hair, having breakfast or sending a text message are all things you have to do before you leave. That one minute makes a big difference,” First Chief Constable Nichoals Paelinck warned.
A recent campaign has urged Belgians to ‘ignore their bosses’ while behind the wheel. An alarming number of professionals and executives admit to using their phones regularly behind the wheel in Wallonia.
“With this action, which combines awareness-raising with punishment, we want to make road users aware of the risk they take for themselves and for others,” says director of the Federal Highway Police, Superintendent Koen Ricour.