Using a smartphone behind the wheel? Drivers risk losing licence from 1 May

Using a smartphone behind the wheel? Drivers risk losing licence from 1 May
Representation of a person phoning behind the wheel. Credit: Unsplash

Anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving in the Halle-Vilvoorde area in the Flemish district surrounding Brussels could risk losing their driver's licence between 1 May and 30 June.

The move comes as the public prosecutor in the area raised the stakes by allowing the police to take serious action, according to reports from Het Laatste Nieuws. 

"It is not our intention to bully people, but to significantly reduce the number of accidents,” said Public Prosecutor of Halle-Vilvoorde Ine Van Wymersch.

Law enforcement has started cracking down harder on the use of mobile phones behind the wheel in general. From the beginning of March, legislation on the use of smartphones while behind the wheel changed, so anyone caught won't just be fined €116 but €174.

They have just taken it a step further in the Halle-Vilvoorde district. The Halle-Vilvoorde district almost completely encircles Brussels and is part of the Flemish Brabant.

1 in 4 Belgians

Not paying attention to the road could pose a risk, which isn't helped by using smartphones.

Despite this, 1 in 4 Belgians indicated in a survey that they read or send messages while driving, and 1 in 6 don't call using hands-free devices. 1 in 10 drivers suggested that they had already or almost had an accident as a result.

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Data from the traffic institute Vias indicated that 8% of fatal crashes are linked to using mobile phones while driving. The institute estimated that would amount to around 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries a year.

"We want to significantly reduce the number of accidents caused by mobile phones in the car,” Van Wymersch stressed. “By giving police zones permission to immediately revoke driver's licences, we want to make road users aware of the possible consequences of their unsafe behaviour."

"Years ago it was a hassle to get everyone to wear seat belts in the car, now we want to prevent mobile phones from becoming the norm behind the wheel," she added.

Safety first

The results will be evaluated after the campaign. The Halle-Vilvoorde district will start for two months and could continue depending on results, according to Van Wymersch.

These drivers will have to answer to the police courts of Vilvoorde and Halle in September.

They risk a fine of €240 to €4,000 euros and losing their driver's licences from eight days to five years. Coordinating a GPS while driving will also be prohibited.

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