Touring: Over a quarter of traffic fatalities due to street furniture

Over a quarter of fatal road accidents in Flanders and Wallonia are due to off-road obstacles such as trees, traffic poles, and crash barriers, according to an annual analysis by mobility organization Touring reported by the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.

In 2022, it was 77 out of 282 road deaths in Flanders and 77 out of 234 road deaths in Wallonia, for the whole of Belgium the figure is as high as 30%. Touring, therefore, calls for an adapted infrastructure that can reduce the number of serious accidents.

Trees and bollards are the most deadly obstacles

Most fatal collisions against obstacles occurred against trees (23%) and bollards (20%), followed by crash barriers (12%) and collisions against walls or other structures (8%). Collisions against such obstacles off-road thus accounted for 27% of fatal road accidents in Flanders in 2022, which are in line with those of 2021 and usually fluctuate between 66 and 108 if you look at the period 2015-2019.

So, there is no real improvement in the figures, but you can’t say the figures are getting worse either. On the contrary. Compared to 2005, the number of road deaths has more than halved. There were 261 fatalities in Flanders last year, compared to 588 in 2005.

Adapt the infrastructure

Of course, you cannot look at infrastructure alone as the cause of death in accidents. Four in 10 traffic fatalities are still pedestrians or cyclists, and the number of fatal car accidents would certainly drop considerably if drivers also avoided alcohol or drugs. For example, alcohol plays a role in 1 in 4 fatal accidents, and the number of accidents involving drugs is on the rise. Reckless driving also plays a role.

Nevertheless, Touring says that adapting the infrastructure could reduce the consequences of an accident. This could be done by installing crash-absorbing bollards, closed crash barriers around trees and structures in the most dangerous places, and crash barriers that are closed at the bottom so that motorcyclists cannot slide under them.

‘Forgiving Roads’ handbook

Cutting down trees along the road is not an option because it makes drivers drive faster, says mobility expert Kris Peeters in Het Laatste Nieuws. A bare road gives a different sense of speed, as there is nothing visual to measure your speed against. Moreover, it also protects against incident light.

Touring, therefore, asks that both the local authorities and the regions focus on this and step up efforts to provide safe infrastructure. The organization also points out that the Roads and Traffic Agency has already drawn up a ‘Forgiving Roads’ handbook since 2014, containing numerous rules to limit the damage of a collision with an obstacle. This was recently extended to weak road users, a more than necessary move given the meteoric rise of the e-bike.


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