Drunk driving Flemish politician sparks DUI policy row in Flanders

Drunk driving Flemish politician sparks DUI policy row in Flanders
The president of the Flemish parliament stepped down after accusations emerged that he helped an escort commit fraud. Credit: © Belga

An incident in which the president of the Flemish parliament crashed into a trailer while driving under the influence of alcohol has sparked an inter-party row in Flanders after one MP on Wednesday denounced the introduction of a zero-tolerance bill as "punishing for the masses."

Following the incident, a bill aiming to reduce the permitted levels of blood alcohol concentration in drivers to 0.0 was introduced in parliament, after news that the president's own alcohol-concentration levels at the time of the crash were almost three times higher (1.42) than the current 0.5 limit.

"Alcohol is a killer in traffic," a member of the socialist SP.A party, which introduced the bill, said, adding that even a driver who respects the current limit would be hindered in its ability to drive.

"Even with an alcohol content of 0.5 per cent, you are already 2.5 times more likely to have a fatal accident," the party member added on Tuesday, which marked the second time the socialists attempted to pass a zero-tolerance bill.

Further reports emerged on Wednesday that the actual alcohol blood levels of the parliament's president, Kris Van Dijck, may have been higher, since he was only submitted to an alcohol breathing test two and a half hours after he was detained.

While the bill was welcomed by some parties as well as by the national road safety institute VIAS, it faced fierce opposition from others, with one Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) member saying the bill would punish the general public for the actions of a few.

"With this measure, you punish the masses because a small group cannot handle alcohol," Wouter Raskin said on Wednesday, arguing that stricter measures to encourage self-control would prove more effective.

"Who does not respect 0.5 will not respect 0.0," he wrote on Twitter, adding that "hooligans" without "standard awareness" needed to be found and punished instead.

Other parties opposed to the measure included liberal Open Vld, and far-right Vlaams Belang, while the greens and labour said they were in favour.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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