Vias: ‘Ignoring priority to the right causes 49 deaths a year’
Thirteen accidents occur every day in Belgium, in which people are injured because someone did not respect the priority rules. In 2018, 49 people lost their lives due to this.
Although the number of accidents fell from 7.883 in 2009 to 4.661 in 2018, those accidents also caused more than six thousand injuries. That’s huge. Why is that? “We just don’t know the rules well enough,” says Stef Willems of traffic institute Vias.
Conflict between car and bicycle
A lot of people still think, for example, that you lose your priority to the right when you stop. “That’s not true,” says Stef Willems in the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. “That rule has been abolished since 2007.”
And, as so often, the weak road user is the main victim. The study shows, for example, that accidents in which not giving priority to the right played a role for 31% between car and bicycle, 28% between car and car, 19% between car and motorbike, 6% between car and pedestrian, 5% between light truck and car and 10% others.
Speed is a factor
And often, there are other factors at play as well: speeding, alcohol, or being distracted by the smartphone. “Speed, in particular, plays a major role: if you moderate your speed when you get close to an intersection, there is much better interaction with the other road users,” says professor emeritus transport studies Willy Miermans (UHasselt).
“This applies in both directions: cars that drive fast often forget to give way. But even cyclists who pedal firmly do not realize they have no right of way on a crossing. Or they don’t want to realize it.”
No crossings with cyclists
To solve this, Miermans proposes to avoid as many intersections with cyclists and pedestrians as possible on stretches where the maximum speed is 70 km/hour for cars. “And make the road picture clear: if a small road joins the main road, the priority of right is not always a good idea.”
Intersections without priority of right
In many municipalities, therefore, the principle of priority of the right has been abandoned, and traffic signs have replaced it, clearly explaining who is allowed first. In Lede, East Flanders, they removed the priority of right at 34 intersections. “Since then, the number of accidents has fallen sharply,” says mayor Roland Uyttendaele (CD&V).
“It was a wide road where three thousand cars drive every day and where you still had to give priority of right at every intersection. A lot of people didn’t do that, with all the consequences that that entails.”