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New traffic law requires drivers to create emergency lane

18:28 02/10/2020

A new regulation, in force since yesterday, requires motorists on Belgium’s roads and motorways to pull over as far as possible in the lane during stop-and-go traffic, leaving space for emergency vehicles. The idea is to ensure that all emergency vehicles have enough space to get through slow-moving traffic or traffic that has ground to a halt.

The law previously required cars to move aside and allow emergency vehicles through. On crowded motorways, however, that is more easily said than done. Now the rule is that this must be done before traffic comes to a halt.

When traffic slows to 10 or 20 kilometres an hour, vehicles in the left lane must stay as far left as possible, and traffic in the right (and middle if present) must drive as far right as possible. This creates the so-called emergency lane.

The federal police advise drivers to prepare for this change if traffic slows to about 60kph. The new regulation applies to all roads with two or more lanes going in one direction, even in urban areas.

Law in other countries

“The important thing to remember is to veer a bit over when traffic really begins to slow,” Joni Junes of motor club VAB told VRT, “because if you are already at a standstill, it’s not always possible to pull to the left or right.”

The emergency lane method of driving is the law in Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Switzerland is ushering it in on 1 January.

The federal mobility department further explained that common sense should be used about when to employ the emergency lane manoeuvre. When approaching a line of traffic stopped at a traffic light, for instance, it’s not necessarily possible, but when driving on a ring road with the occasional light, it is advisable if traffic is going slowly.

‘Every minute counts’

Junes also notes that it is not the intention to enter into the shoulder of the road or into a bike or bus lane. While cars should keep as far as they can to the left or right, they should only enter those areas if an emergency vehicle is actually approaching.

“Drive as far to the left or right as possible so that ambulances, for example, can get to people who have been involved in an accident as quickly as possible,” Lode Verkinderen of Transport and Logistic Flanders told VRT. “Consider that if you yourself are ever injured in an accident that you will also need the ambulance to arrive as soon as possible. Sometimes every minute counts.”

The federal road safety institute Vias has made a video to help drivers understand how to create an emergency lane.

Written by Lisa Bradshaw