Belgium creates law on clearing space for emergency vehicles

Belgium creates law on clearing space for emergency vehicles
Credit: Belga

Forming a so-called ‘emergency lane’ clearing a path for priority vehicles in case of a traffic jam will be mandatory in Belgium from 1 October, VRT NWS confirmed on Sunday.

There is currently no clear rule in the road code describing what to do in case a path needs to be cleared for emergency services. A new law, which was voted in parliament on 11 June, will make it mandatory for drivers on roads with two or more lanes per direction to drive as far to the outer side as possible to create space in the middle for services to pass.

In case of a two-lane road, the space should be created between both lanes. With a road of more than two lanes, the left-most lane needs to keep left and all other lanes must keep right.

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In Germany, where the emergency lane is also part of the law, the rules say the emergency lane needs to be created as soon as speed drops to 10 or 20 kilometres per hour. In Belgium, however, it’s not clear how the law will be implemented, as it merely mentions that it needs to happen in case of a “traffic jam formation.” Drivers will have to use their common sense, said Thomas De Spiegelaere of the Federal Public Mobility Service (FPS Mobility).

Belgium already has a so-called emergency shoulder, but this is often not the fastest way to reach a place where an accident has been, according to De Spiegelaere. People cannot use the emergency shoulder to form a new lane unless there is no other way, nor can they use lanes that are for buses only or ones that are temporarily closed.

The rule will apply to all vehicles, including motorcycles. The latter will still be allowed to overtake the traffic jam in the emergency lane created, however, at a maximum speed of 20 km/h and with all direction indicators on.

Drivers will reportedly risk hefty fines if they drive down the emergency lane. And even when you saw the ambulance pass, the principle of the emergency lane remains mandatory until the traffic jam is solved. It’s most likely that the fire brigade, breakdown services, or extra ambulances will follow.

The Belgian Road and Traffic Agency will launch a broad information campaign explaining the new rules, spokesperson Veva Daniëls told the VRT.

Forming emergency lanes is already practised in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Switzerland will follow from January 2021. In Slovenia, it’s a ‘recommendation’ only.

The Brussels Times

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