Why roads in Wallonia are deadlier than in Flanders

Why roads in Wallonia are deadlier than in Flanders
A motorway in Heppignies, Walloon region. Credit: Belga / Bruno Fahy

Roads in the Wallonia Region are proportionally the deadliest in Belgium, according to the Statbel, Belgium's statistical office. The region recorded 198 deaths on its roads, compared to 310 in the north.

When relating that figure to the number of inhabitants, Flanders recorded 46.27 deaths per million inhabitants, compared to 54.06 in Wallonia.

The difference has been longstanding, even if it is significantly decreasing over the years. In 2019, there were 84 deaths per million inhabitants in Wallonia, compared to 47 in Flanders.

The accident mortality rate is also higher in Wallonia, where 9,893 accidents were recorded last year, including 187 fatalities, which calculates to 1 accident in 52. In the north of the country, it is 1 in 72.

Several causes

One of the causes for this difference is the effect of spatial planning in Flanders, as the north of the country has a population density almost twice as high as Wallonia. In addition, Flemish towns and cities also tend to be more spread out along the roads.

“Flanders has become a large agglomeration. There are fewer main roads conducive to speeding, which are generally more accident-prone,” confirms Benoît Godart, spokesperson for Vias, the institute for road safety.

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Wallonia also has long stretches with little to no inhabited areas, where some drivers are more easily tempted to press the accelerator pedal. While Flanders has a maximum speed of 70 km/h on most roads outside built-up areas, Wallonia has a limit of 90 km/h.

“Flanders had adopted this speed limit in 2016, following the regionalisation of road safety, precisely because its territory is more urbanised. The impact can be measured concretely: in Wallonia, 20% of accidents take place outside built-up areas, compared to 4% in Flanders,” said Belinda Demattia, spokesperson for the Walloon Agency for Road Safety.

Other factors come into play to explain this difference between regions, such as the greater number of speed cameras in Flanders, or even a higher degree of drunk driving incidents in Wallonia.

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