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Belgian drivers rate poorly in new European study on road behaviour

Illustration picture shows a 24 hour speed control action of BIVV-IBSR (Belgian institute for road safety) and federal and local police. (BELGA PHOTO VIRGINIE LEFOUR)
06:02 13/05/2021

More than eight out of 10 Belgian drivers admit to intentionally breaking traffic rules, making Belgium the worst of the 11 European countries in a new study released by the Vinci Highways Foundation, the Vias Institute revealed on Wednesday. One-sixth of the drivers surveyed also said they "are no longer the same person" when they are driving.

Every year, the Vinci Highways Foundation conducts the survey in which drivers from several European countries are asked about their behaviour behind the wheel.

The results of the latest survey show that more than six out of 10 Belgians ignore stop signs or forget to slow down in a restricted area, which is significantly more than the European average.

"60% of them justify this non-compliance by the fact that these rules are not consistent,” according to the statement from Vias, the Belgian road safety think tank. “30% of drivers even think that certain rules are only there to generate fines."

Conversely, when they follow the rules, Belgians do not necessarily do so to protect themselves or others, but rather to avoid penalties. "Nowhere else but in Belgium is money such a source of motivation to comply with the road code," Vias noted.

The Belgians are also the most impatient in Europe. Every second Belgian canvassed admitted to ignoring the right of way in favour of their own route, mainly due to a lack of patience.

"Belgian drivers too often interpret these rules in their own way,” added Vias. “For one in five drivers, the main reason for complying with the traffic code seems to be financial. To improve road safety in our country, we need to look for other intrinsic motivators and inform users about the possible consequences of improper driving behaviour. We don't own the road, we share it."

Written by Nick Amies



Any other result would have been truly surprising. I have always assumed Belgians never have to learn anything about signalling, traffic rules, traffic markings or anything else. Just how to start the engine and then drive full speed ahead. I'll never forget watching a Belgian car speeding along on a German autobahn near Aachen where it merged with another autobahn. The Belgian simply crossed all the triple solid white lines, didn't look, didn't signal and just kept on speeding. Much as they do in Belgium. Rules are for others....

May 13, 2021 18:02
Frank Lee

Worst drivers? I checked the survey's website to see if Italy was part of the 11 countries, and yes, it is. I spend lots of time in Milan, and people there park their cars on the sidewalk, on tramway tracks, on pedestrian crossings, in the middle of the street (first time I saw a guy stop there, I thought he had car trouble, then realized he found that a good spot to park his car while going to have an espresso at the cafe), even in the middle of some intersections! Some traffic lights in Italy have a sign next to them indicating that when the light is red, you shouldn't enter the intersection, as if at other places it was okay to do so. Yes, Belgian drivers might not be the best, but they're definitely not the worst. Maybe they're just more honest answering the survey's questions...

May 15, 2021 11:32

@Frank Lee; I hear that all the time from drivers here in Belgium ever since I moved here. And the comparison is ALWAYS with Italian drivers! It's almost like a badge of honour when Belgians say they are only the second worst drivers in Europe...and so that makes the appalling road manners and downright terrible driving habits here okay. How about working on improving the safety record here through legislation, social awareness and personal responsibility rather than glowing with pride at being only the second worst? The barbaric driving habits of Belgians have no place in ANY European city, period.

May 17, 2021 17:02

As a Belgian: It's not about awareness, and that's what the government doesn't get, it's about road regulations often not making sense or wanting to. "Right of way to oncoming traffic from the right" is recklessly used by towns to slow down traffic even on frequently travelled roads. "safety by insafety" is abused so much; Too fast cars? Make slim sections which can cause a head on collision if they don't slow down or wait their turn. Large bus station unsafe? Just remove all lines and force drivers to be careful or mow 5 people over. Does this justify all driving habits? No, but if you feel the government doesn't truly care about road safety, you won't either.

May 18, 2021 16:38