Uncertainty on road rules kills 49 people on Belgian roads every year

Uncertainty on road rules kills 49 people on Belgian roads every year
Insufficient knowledge of the rules is often not the only problem. Credit: Pxfuel

In Belgium, 49 people die in accidents as a result of road users not respecting the right of way rules in traffic every year, according to recent figures.

In 2018, a total of 4,661 accidents happened in which not respecting the right of way played a major role, or about 13 per day, according to figures by the Vias traffic institute. The accidents were responsible for over 6,000 people injured, and 49 killed.

"The knowledge of the essential rules of who has priority is not optimal, both among motorists and more vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists," said Stef Willems, a spokesperson for Vias, reports VRT. "For example, many road users still think that a driver loses their right of way as soon as they have stopped, but that rule has been scrapped since 2007. And the priority rules for vulnerable road users at pedestrian crossings or cyclists' crossings are not sufficiently known either," he added.

Most accidents in which right of way played a part happen between a car and a cyclist, but the figures do not show who was at fault.

However, the number of accidents concerning priority dropped from 7,883 in 2009, to 4,661 in 2018. "Still too many," said Willems. "Those accidents caused over 6,000 injuries. That's huge. And the number of deaths has remained virtually the same since 2013, about 49 per year," he added.

Often, there are other factors at play, such as speeding, alcohol, or being on the phone.

"Speed, in particular, plays a major role: moderating your speed when you get close to an intersection will give drivers a much better interaction with the other road users," said Willy Miermans, professor emeritus in Traffic Science, reports Het Nieuwsblad. "This applies to both parties: cars that drive fast often forget to give way, but cyclists who are pedalling firmly often do not realise they have no right of way on a crossing, or they do not want to realise it," he added.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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