Using the phone while driving? Check. Not using a direction indicator when changing lanes or parking in a place for people with disabilities or in the cycle lane? Check. A survey of over 12 000 residents of ten European countries, commissioned by Foundation Vinci Autoroutes, which operates toll roads in France, shows that most Europeans do not always follow the Highway Code very closely. At the same time, we are also quick to blame the other road users for taking too many risks.
Belgian king of inappropriate parking
For example, the Vinci barometer shows that two-thirds of European drivers use their phones while driving. More than half also do not use a direction indicator when changing lanes.
As many as 36% of motorists also open their door without seeing if a cyclist is coming, 32% regularly double park, and 21% drive in the bus lane. And 67% of motorists and 41% of cyclists have also passed through an orange or red light in situations where this was not merited by the signage.
If you look more specifically at the behavior of Belgian motorists, you see that inappropriate parking behavior has not improved among Belgians. For example, 13% of Belgian respondents said they occasionally parked in a disabled parking space, compared to 10% last year. However, the least respectful in this respect are the British (19%), ahead of the Spanish (17%), Germans (16%), and Swedes (16%).
Just under a quarter of Belgian drivers (24%) also say they sometimes park on a cycle path (21% in 2022). This makes Belgium scores the worst of all countries in the Vinci Barometer, followed by the Nederlands (23%) and Germany (22%).
In addition, Belgians also indicate that they sometimes park in places reserved for EVs (from 11% in 2022 to 13% in 2023) or double park (from 22% to 26%).
Seeing how European motorists flout the rules of the Highway Code en masse, it should also come as no surprise that almost nine in ten pedestrians, when crossing on a crosswalk, are afraid that cars will not stop.
What is striking is that almost all of us think we are doing just fine ourselves. However, more than nine in ten Europeans think other road users are “taking too many risks”.
Yet Vinci says motorists, cyclists, and walkers often think mainly of themselves. “Road users have little inclination to leave space to others on the street,” says Vinci, indicating that Europeans “take a lot of risks and cause a lot of traffic violations”.
For example, Belgian cyclists also admit to regularly riding on the pavement (60% versus 43% for motorcyclists), overtaking a truck or bus on the right (55%), and stepping off to explain to another user (45%).
The survey also shows that only 50% of Belgians walk to get around. “This is considerably less than the European average (66%) and even the lowest percentage of all European countries. By comparison, 73% of Dutch people walk for their daily trips, and in France it is 62%.
More than 20 000 road deaths in EU
Around 20 600 people were killed in road crashes last year on roads in the EU, a 3% increase compared with 2021 as traffic levels recovered after the pandemic. The EU wants to halve the number of road deaths by 2030.
The overall ranking of countries’ fatality rates has not changed significantly, with the safest roads in Sweden (21 deaths per one million inhabitants) and Denmark (26/million), while Romania (86/million) and Bulgaria (78/million) reported the highest rates in 2022.