Carl Decaluwé, governor of West Flanders, has called for the Flemish region to follow the example of Wallonia by banning the sale of alcoholic drinks in motorway service stations. Last week the Walloon government took the first steps towards a ban as a means of cutting down on the number of drink-driving cases, many of them fatal. Yesterday saw the start of a week of road safety promotion in West Flanders province.
West Flanders routinely scores higher numbers for drink-driving offences. The province organises regular strict checks for drunk drivers – a fact that may in itself contribute to higher numbers. According to the governor, sale of alcohol at service stations is clearly intended, in many cases at least, for consumption on the road.
He has also proposed a system of tax-cheques, similar to service cheques, which would encourage drivers who have already been drinking to leave their cars behind and go home by taxi.
The measure in Wallonia will involve a permit for the sale of alcohol not to be granted when a service station has its licence to operate renewed, the region’s minister for mobility, Carlo Di Antonio said. In time, sales by the roadside would die out. “This measure will be good for road safety, as it works against drink-driving,” he said.
However Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts is no supporter of the roadside ban on alcohol. At present, he points out, the sale of strong drink is already forbidden, though beer, wine and alcopops are still available.
“By extending the alcohol ban you affect everyone, whereas a small minority are offenders,” Weyts said, “And those offenders will get hold of their supply whatever happens”. And he pointed out that the same logic could be used to justify the sale of alcohol along any road.
“As far as I am concerned, the focus should be on when you consume alcohol, not on where you buy it,” he said.