Belgium: six victims every month due to accidents with ambulances
Last year 37 people were seriously injured or even died as a result of accidents involving ambulances, an average of six a month. It is one of the results published by traffic safety institute Via,s following a survey on knowledge of priority vehicles. The survey also shows that a quarter of drivers does not know how to clear the road for an approaching priority vehicle.
The Vias survey was conducted among a representative group of 1.000 people from the Belgian population. The traffic safety institute emphasizes that the figures are still an underestimation, because the accidents with police vehicles are not included in the survey. In 2016, there were about hundred accidents involving police cars.
25% of Belgians do not know how to clear the road
In the past month, six out of ten Belgians (59%) had to go at least once at the side of the road in order to let pass through a priority vehicle. Two out of ten Belgians even had to go aside twice or more. Most drivers remain calm, but 8% say they get stressed when a priority vehicle is approaching. Young drivers (22%) are four times more stressed than drivers aged 35 and over (5%).
The biggest problem for the drivers of ambulances, police vehicles, fire engines and other priority vehicles is the fact that a quarter of Belgians does not know how to clear the road for these vehicles.
Leave a corridor
Too often, time is lost or accidents are caused by drivers braking too abruptly, not going aside in a coordinated way, continuing to drive until they block an intersection or even try to follow the priority vehicles in order to be faster.
Almost 1 in 7 (15%) thinks that the best way to go out of the way for a priority vehicle is to move all the way to the right and leave the left lane free. The most efficient way, however, is to leave a corridor free between the left lane and the lane on the right. 7 out of 10 (72%) consider this herringbone principle to be the appropriate method. Its use will be explicitly provided in the renewed road code, which will take effect in 2021.
Most accidents happen at intersections
Any vehicle with a blue flashlight and a sound device that is on, is a priority vehicle and therefore has priority. Only 18% of Belgians are aware of this rule and 17% of respondents think that a priority vehicle can go through a red light if it only has its blue flashing light on. A remaining 37% does not know that, in an emergency, priority vehicles can also exceed the speed limit in a zone 30.
Knowing the rules is very important, because more than 1 accident out of every 2 (53%) with a priority vehicle happens at an intersection (60% of these accidents occur in urban areas). Major Laurent Ledeghen of the Brussels fire brigade calls for a sense of citizenship and respect on the road.
“In order to get there quickly, we have to rely on the civic sense and the good reflexes of drivers. But they also have to be able to count on a coherent mobility policy. The problem needs to be looked at as a whole, and we are talking about the issue of traffic jams, the many road works, the new road infrastructure and the average speed of vehicles declining, leading to an greater congestion phenomenon, even more in Brussels and Antwerp”, says Major Ledeghen.