In 2022, 540 people died in Belgian traffic – one out of three fatalities was a cyclist or pedestrian. This score is far from the target of 320 road deaths by 2030. “Not enough has happened in road safety in the last ten years,” says Karin Genoe, CEO of Traffic Safety Institute Vias. “Many measures that have been proven successfully elsewhere have been on the table for too long without ever being implemented.”
That is why, a few months before the elections, Vias recently presented its memorandum ‘Action now!’ containing twelve concrete measures to reduce the number of traffic casualties.
Vias pleads for a driver’s license with points. It’s the best way to identify and punish recidivists. Europe already counts 22 countries that have introduced points-related driver’s licenses. It must become more difficult to make serious mistakes repeatedly.
Vias also is in favor of a digital driver’s license. A digital driver’s license makes it easier for the police to check driving without a valid driver’s license. The organization requires zero tolerance for alcohol for all drivers. There is support for this measure in all parts of the country: six out of ten Belgian drivers are in favor.
Alcohol, drugs, and ‘laughing gas’
Vias wants more control over drugs in traffic. Today, 14% of all drivers between 18 and 34 years old admit to getting behind the wheel under the influence of drugs at least once a month. At the same time, Vias wants to harmonize legislation and advocates a ban on the sales, possession, and transport of nitrous oxide – the so-called ‘laughing gas’.
Vias advocates using a camera system to fine drivers using their smartphones behind the wheel. Distraction causes 50 deaths and 4 500 injuries every year.
If it were up to Vias, helmets (and safety jackets) would become mandatory for e-scooter users. Belgian hospital research shows that most e-scooter drivers seldom wear helmets; 40% of victims sustain head injuries.
Ban on warning systems
Vias proposes to reduce the technical margin of speed measurements – just as in the Netherlands and France – to 3 km/hour or 3% (above 100 km/h). The reduction could save about 30 lives and 2 500 injuries annually.
The organization pleads for more frequent use of mobile section checks, especially at road work sites that are longer than one kilometer and take more than a week. Almost two out of three Belgians ‘forget’ to slow down during road works.
Vias wants to ban warning systems for mobile checks (like Waze or Coyote) because they don’t improve traffic safety. On the contrary, people continue to take risks and do not change their behavior.
‘Reward good behavior’
Finally, Vias also advocates readable, high-quality, conflict-free infrastructure: 30 km per hour in residential areas, separated cycle paths, and conflict-free intersections… A straightforward road design ‘leads’ road users automatically to the desired behavior in traffic, (better) respecting speed limits and priority rules.
And last but not least, Vias wants to reward the good behavior of road users. It will increase support for safety measures and won’t necessarily cost much. By rewarding drivers for adhering to traffic rules, the message is clear: road safety policy’s sole purpose is to reduce accidents and casualties.
Karin Genoe: “With this memorandum, we hope to draw political attention to the need to act quickly and take structural measures to achieve the set objectives.”