‘Priority from the right is dangerous’
Priority from the right leads to more than 15.000 accidents per year in Belgium. Experiences at several Belgian municipalities that decided to adapt traffic signals to avoid the priority from the right rule proved successful, with less accidents. “Abolish that rule all the way”, says mobility organization VAB.
Priority from the right is one of the basic principles of our traffic rules. However, at right-wing priority intersections in Belgium, road users collide on average 42 times a day. According to Assuralia, the Belgian association for insurers. In 2017 this represented more than 15.000 accidents or almost 5% of the total number of insurance claims.
“We must remove priority from the right from as many intersections as possible”, says Maarten Matienko of VAB. It is an outdated principle and it does more harm than good. The rule is difficult to apply, especially for young people.”
“It is also difficult for someone who is distracted for a second, which unfortunately happens more often because of the smartphone. In addition, some municipalities abuse it as a speed-regulator.”
Last year, several Belgian municipalities experimented with abolishing the rule by placing stop signs or inverted triangles. The municipal authorities find this more uniform and clear. In Geel, Dilbeek and Glabbeek the findings are positive.
Traffic flow was smoother, the number of accidents dropped. Even 30% fewer speeding violations were recorded. “In Glabbeek the number of traffic accidents related to this priority rule decreased from 18 to 3″, says Peter Reekmans, Mayor in Glabbeek. “However, this measure might not be equally applicable in practice in all municipalities”, he adds.
For Vias, the Belgian road safety institute, this impact on speed is precisely the reason why the right-wing priority should not be abolished. “In city centres there are streets where it is unclear to see which is the main or a side street. In this case, the priority rule is still the best way to keep drivers attentive and adjust their speed”, says Stef Willems, spokesman for Vias.
Principle may continue
In any case, it does not seem that we should forget the primacy of the right. Federal Minister for Mobility, François Bellot (MR), is preparing a complete revision of the road code, but the right-wing priority is not on the table.
Matienko (VAB) hopes the signs that give priority from the right will disappear. “However, the principle may continue to exist. If a sign has disappeared due to vandalism or an accident, you must have basic rules to rely on”, Matienko concludes.