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Hit-and-run every two hours in Belgium
Following a day in which another pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Brussels, Belgian road safety agency Vias has released figures showing the rate of the crime is indeed growing. The rate of hit-and-run incidents involving injuries to pedestrians, cyclists or people in other cars has increased by 25% over the last decade.
The figure is relative, Vias is quick to point out: while the number of road accidents ending in injury or death has decreased by 20%, the number of hit-and-runs has stayed the same. So the percentage of hit-and-runs in the total number of accidents is much higher. Last year, 11% of the number of accidents with injuries or fatalities were hit-and-runs.
“In 2018, there were 4,433 hit-and-run accidents in Belgium,” said spokesperson Stef Willems – or one every two hours. “It is surprising that the number of hit-and-runs hasn’t decreased, considering that the total number of injurious or fatal accidents has decreased.”
The good news is that the total number of fatalities is on a steady decline. Ten years ago, 21 people died in hit-and-run accidents, while last year the figure was 16. “Still, it’s unbelievable that we are seeing so many hit-and-run accidents,” said Willems.
Most in Brussels
Hit-and-run drivers seem to think they will not be caught, which is rarely the case. “They often drive off because they have been drinking or their papers aren’t in order,” says Willems. “They don’t seem to realise that penalties for hit-and-run are much worse than if your licence isn’t valid or you’ve drunk too much.”
Not surprisingly considering recent headlines, the most such offences occur in Brussels, where nearly 16% of traffic accidents leading to injury or death are hit-and-runs. In Flanders, the number is 12% and in Wallonia 9.3%.
Brussels saw yet another hit-and-run death on Sunday, when a man in his 20s was killed near Place Rogier. As of Monday afternoon, the driver had been identified but not yet apprehended.
The next Brussels government plans to introduce a 30kph speed limit across the whole of the Brussels-Capital Region, according to information obtained by Le Soir at the weekend. The ring road and a few major thoroughfares would be the only exceptions.
The plan is part of the accord currently being discussed as part of the formation of the next government. “That is absolutely realistic,” Cathy Macharis, a professor in logistics and mobility at VUB, told Radio 1 this morning.
She pointed out that the 30kph established in Schaerbeek last year has little effect when the rest of the capital isn’t doing the same. If the whole region turns to 30kph, “it shows that the priority goes to pedestrians and cyclists and the car isn’t in first place anymore.”
Photo: Sunday’s hit-and-run saw a 21-year-old pedestrian lose his life