Belgium to launch pilot with ‘courtesy lights’ for voluntary firemen

In January, three liberal members of Parliament submitted a bill for the introduction of a green courtesy light for voluntary firefighters. Now, the Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) has commissioned the traffic safety institute Vias to start a pilot project.

The idea is that voluntary firefighters could use a courtesy light to let other drivers know they’re on their way to an emergency and to urge them to pull over or let them pass. The three liberals – Jasper Pillen, Tim Vandenput, and Tania De Jonge (Open Vld)– are convinced that it could improve traffic safety.

Easily recognizable

Fire rescue teams usually are equipped with eye-catching trucks, sirens, and rotating blue lights, which help them to arrive easily and rapidly at an emergency zone. In Belgium, however, most firefighters are volunteers. As soon as they get an emergency call, they jump in their – personal – car and rush to the fire station.

And that’s no picnic in nowadays traffic. So, if they would be allowed to put a caution light on their car, they would be easily recognizable in traffic. At the same time, it would invite drivers to be courteous and give way.

Every second counts

It would help other road users to free the road more rapidly. It could cut down response times and make it easier for volunteer firefighters to help when they’re needed.

Every second counts when responding to a fire or heart attack, and a response time of 10 minutes compared to 20 minutes can mean a difference between life and death.

Now, for the pilot project, voluntary firefighters will be allowed to use a (probably green) rotating light without a sound signal. It should give them enough visibility to warn other road users to free the road, but not the same rights as a priority vehicle. All volunteers involved have to respect traffic regulations at all times.

Ontario’s example

Similar initiatives exist in other countries, and they appear to be successful. In Canada, for instance, similar rules are already in place. The volunteers of the Ontario Firefighters are driving around in their personal vehicles equipped with a green flashing light to let other drivers know they’re on their way to an emergency and to urge them to pull over or to let them pass.

Vias will soon launch the pilot project, and, meanwhile, Jasper Pillen even pleads for more extended research on several locations in the country to analyze the impact of such a courtesy light on other road users and traffic in general.

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