Traffic fatalities in 2021 in Belgium were overall the same as the previous year, however, Flanders saw a surge in the number of traffic-related deaths and accidents involving e-scooters rose.
As road traffic increased following a pandemic-induced drop in 2020, the number of victims of traffic accidents has also increased. The number of accidents resulting in people being wounded rose by 14% from 29,947 to 34,264, according to the annual Traffic Safety Barometer of Vias Institute.
Remarkably, this included more than 1,000 people using electric scooters, which were given a separate category in 2019 due to the increased popularity of this form of transport.
In 2021, 1,021 people were injured following an accident with an e-scooter, or almost three per day, and more than double the number in 2020 (409). Four people were killed when using this mode of transport.
However, according to Vias, this figure is "only the tip of the iceberg" as many of those accidents are single-vehicle accidents, where the injured person goes to the hospital, meaning they often do not end up in the official accident statistics.
The overall number of traffic-related deaths in Belgium increased very slightly from 483 in 2020 to 484, but is still much more favourable than in 2019, when 619 people died in traffic-related accidents, as 2021 was still an atypical year when it came to the number of people on the road.
Although the overall number of deaths remained relatively stable since 2020, there are some regional differences. While in Wallonia and Brussels this figure dropped by 16% (from 223 to 187) and 57% respectively in 2021 (from 14 to six) — the lowest figures ever recorded in these regions — it increased by more than 18% in Flanders (from 246 to 291).
According to Mobility Minister Elke Van den Brandt, the introduction of the "Zone 30" in the region played a role in the remarkable decline in traffic-related deaths.
"65% fewer deaths in Brussels, thanks to all drivers who respect the Zone 30. Preventing serious accidents is our number one goal. We will keep investing in road safety until there are no more fatalities," she wrote on Twitter.
The number of injuries, meanwhile, increased in all regions, albeit slightly more in Flanders, where the number of accidents increased by 14% (from 18,517 to 21,021). In Brussels this figure increased by 10% (from 3,190 to 3,497) and in Wallonia by 18% (from 8,240 to 9,746).
Differences in modes of transport
Across Belgium, the number of cycling fatalities decreased (from 83 to 74), as did motorbike fatalities (from 77 to 61) and did people sitting in cars (from 214 to 205).
However, the number of deaths involving people in light trucks increased (from 43 to 63) and in the case of lorries from 83 to 92. The number of pedestrians killed in traffic-related accidents rose from 62 to 69.
Especially in Flanders, the number of deaths in traffic accidents involving both ordinary and light trucks increased significantly (from 53 to 68 and from 30 to 45, respectively).
"The increase in van accidents is particularly worrying. It has been since 2015 that there have been so many deaths. Further research is needed to determine the exact cause of this," Vias stated, adding that the increased popularity of e-commerce and home deliveries in the last two years is likely to have impacted this figure.
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During the sixth General Assembly on Road Safety, the various mobility ministers introduced the first inter-federal plan for traffic safety, in which all governments revealed their goal to ensure that, by 2050, no one is killed in a road accident and that the number of seriously injured and risky behaviour is reduced by 90%.
According to Vias, this "requires efforts at all levels," which was mirrored by Georges Gilkinet, Federal Minister for Mobility.
"The Vias institute road safety barometer for 2021 shows once again how important it is that we work to improve road safety. Even if the accidents seem less serious, every road casualty is one too many," he said.