Some 20,000 Belgians have been granted exemptions for wearing seatbelts over the last ten years. The total is an average of 2,000 exemptions every year. Vias indicated this on Thursday, based upon figures released by FPS Mobility. The institute stresses, “The fact that so many individuals have been exempt is not a good thing for road safety.” It considers that the exceptions to the rule should remain exceptions, and consequently wishes to reform the system.
Vias says health professionals agree that the benefits of wearing a seatbelt are more numerous than the discomfort which it causes in certain cases. Vias points out in a communiqué, “Traffic experts, ergonomists and medical and paramedic staff confirm that there are no medical reasons justifying any form of exemption…”.
Whilst more than 60% of road users killed in a motorway accident were not wearing their seatbelt at the moment of the accident, as mentioned above some 20,000 dispensations have been granted during the last decade, including three-quarters on a permanent basis. The ex-IBSR regrets, “These figures are decreasing but remain highly (indeed excessively) significant.” The organisation says that the finding is notably the case in comparison with some neighbouring countries.
Vias notes, “By comparison, the central bureau processing requests for exemption in the Netherlands barely receives 500 requests each year. For the Netherlands, these are not all new exemptions as the maximum validity duration is five years. There are also renewals.” Vias also considers that it would be preferable not to grant dispensations for an indefinite duration.
In Belgium at the current time, a given patient must simply send a doctor’s declaration to the FPS Mobility, which is responsible for granting exemptions. In the future, Vias would favour a scenario in which the treating GP does not themselves take the decision to exempt the patient from the need to wear a seatbelt. Instead, “The GP would simply provide relevant medical information to a central body which would then record the request, assess it, and would decide according to a given list of negative criteria, thus being able to justify its final decision for a given individual.”