(james benedict brown) on the road

Snapshot: Belgian road safety kit

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 19 July, 2008

I spent a few days last week pootling around southern Belgium, escorting a certain VIP to various historic sights (and rather nice restaurants as well). We shot to Brussels in less than two hours by Eurostar, and then used a rental car to explore.

Belgian law obliges you to carry a warning triangle, reflective jacket, first aid kit and fire extinguisher in every vehicle. Perhaps a desperate legislative attempt to compensate for their consistently horrific driving? This is the extract that most interested me from my Lonely Planet guidebook to Belgium & Luxembourg.

‘Aggressive’ is the word generally used to describe Belgian drivers, and many foreigners who take to the roads here find it apt. Whether cruising on a sleek highway or bouncing over potholed inner-city streets, drivers have a reputation for being fast, impatient and at times abusive … anyone idling at 120km/h in the fast lane of a motorway will be flashed from behind by speed demons doing 160km/h … One peculiarity that ensures adrenaline-pumped journeys is the voorrang van rechts / priorité à droite (give way to the right) law, which operates in both Belgium and Luxembourg. Thanks to this rule, cars darting out from side streets sometimes have right of way over vehicles on the main road (but not always – signs with an orange diamond surrounded by white mean the main road has priority). Recent figures show that 250 people die each year due to this rule … Statistically, Belgium has double the rate of road fatalities of most of its neighbouring countries (France is the exception) … And if you think all this is a bit exaggerated, have a read of Pisa Test’s recent study of 3000 European drives in which the Belgians came out as the worst drivers in Europe. Just 48% are capable of passing their driving test …

Leanne Logan & Geert Cole, Lonely Planet: Belgium & Luxembourg (2007)

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