'Cultural problem': Many Belgian drivers still break speed limits

'Cultural problem': Many Belgian drivers still break speed limits
Credit: Belga

Aside from when they are driving on motorways, Belgian motorists systematically continue to ignore speed limits, highlighting there is still a "cultural problem with speeding in the country."

Belgium in recent years has increased efforts to combat speeding on its local, regional and national roads, including increased checks and harsher fines.

However, many drivers continue to ignore speed limits, a recent measurement of the speed of 3.8 million cars carried out by Vias road safety institute and Belgium's regions showed. The situation is most worrying on roads with a 90 km/h speed limit.

"On roads with a speed limit of 90 km/h, one motorist in 100 drives at least 47 km/h too fast. This would mean that if they were caught, they would automatically have to appear in court," a statement by Vias read.

In the past decade, the percentage of drivers speeding on these roads has almost doubled, from 26% to 54%, the highest since measurements began. "This increase can be explained in part by the fact that the standard speed limit outside built-up areas was reduced from 90 to 70 km/h in 2017."

Far beyond limit

For the measurement, driver speeds were checked in conditions where they could make their own choice of speed and where there was therefore "as little influence as possible from external factors such as speed bumps, speed cameras or traffic jams.

"While the percentage of drivers not respecting the speed limit in a 30 km/h zone has dropped in recent years — for the first time, this percentage dropped well below the 90% limit — it still remains very high, at 78% across the country. In Wallonia, this figure is as high as 84% of drivers.

"On roads limited to 30 km/h, we observe the highest percentage of drivers speeding: 15% of drivers even drive faster than 47 km/h," Vias noted.

For roads with a 50 km/h speed limit, the downward trend of previous years has stopped, as the percentage of drivers speeding here nationwide rose from 36% in 2015 to 51% in 2022. Here too, drivers in the southern region are more likely to break the 50 km/h speed limit: 68% of drivers, compared to 42% in Flanders and 29% in Brussels.

On roads where the limit is 70, 90 and 120 km/h, there is no significant difference between Flanders and Wallonia. On the motorway, Belgians respect the 120 km/h limit quite well, Vias noted.

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The report also included several examples of extreme speeding: One driver was found to be driving at 169 km/h on a road where the speed limit was 50 km/h. On the motorway, someone was observed driving at 247 km/h.

Belgium's Mobility Minister Georges Gilkinet stressed that these figures confirmed Belgium still has a cultural problem with speeding, and that this should spur the government to act. "The latest study carried out by Vias shows to what extent the fight against excessive speed remains a major concern in terms of road safety."

He added that drivers should systematically be re-trained when their licence is withdrawn, that fines should progress according to the speed and that more speed cameras should be installed.

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