Vias pleads for obligatory helmet for young cyclists
With the elections approaching, traffic safety institute, Vias, is calling on politicians through a ten-point program to make traffic in Belgium drastically safer. The most striking proposals are an obligation for bicycle helmets for children younger than 14, an alcohol ban for motorcyclists and novice drivers and speed checks by private companies.
Private companies for speed controls
In a memorandum, which Vias – with an eye toward the Flemish and federal elections at the end of May – sent to all political parties, the institute advocates the introduction of 10 measures for safer traffic.
The most remarkable proposal: private companies to carry out speed controls because “police force is undermanned”. The police would, of course, continue to decide where the checks are to be carried out and such a company would not be paid for each penalty (the police think it’s a good idea, as long as the device has been calibrated by the police – the rest can be outsourced).
Stricter alcohol control
Other main issue: just like speed, alcohol must also be dealt with much more strictly. So Vias is asking for a total alcohol ban for both novice drivers and all motorcyclists. “7 out of 10 young people are in favour”, says Stef Willems of Vias, figures from the survey in hand.
Most motorcyclists already realize that they should not drink alcohol at all. “Motorcycling requires much more skills than driving.”
Vias also asks to introduce a mandatory helmet for cyclists younger than 14. “Of course, one should also continue to invest in safer bicycle paths”, emphasises Willems.
The Cyclists’ Union is not in favour of the idea “for fear of a decrease in bicycle use”, even though Vias states that cycling children in that age group suffer head and brain injuries in about one in two major accidents.
Ban on radar detectors
Other noteworthy points are a ban on radar detectors announcing mobile checks, a faster and more appropriate punishment of traffic offenders and a further generalization of a zone 30 in city and village centres.
Vias also wants a global approach of structural traffic jams via qualitative public transport and new forms of urban mobility.
600 road fatalities per year
Belgium has more than 600 road fatalities per year, almost 2 per day. Successive governments have promised to cut this number to 420 by 2020, or halve the number of deaths by 2020.
Achieving that goal, however, becomes doubtful, says Vias. They see their ten-point plan as a solution for further reducing the number of road deaths.
Combating the consequences, not the cause
In a personal standpoint in the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, editor Peter Mijlemans makes the comment that what is most striking in the package of measures of Vias, is that a few of the requested interventions are aimed at combating the consequences of a tragic accident. Not at the cause.
No real interventions have been asked to better protect vulnerable road users. For example, there is nothing in the proposals to list the lethal impact of truck traffic. However, last year trucks were responsible for 3% more fatal accidents.
The author also thinks that Vias shouldn’t give in to the use of private companies for more speed checks. The police would have enough people, when the government would consider road safety a priority instead of the car and the economic necessity of freight transport, even in a densely built neighbourhood.