View Full Version : Belgium stops having Europe's toughest traffic fines after system revision

29-03-06, 10:52
More info here : Expatica : Belgium no longer has highest traffic fines (http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=24&story_id=28821)

New traffic legislation in Belgium will put an end to the days in which the nation topped the list of European nations with the toughest fines.

Belgium is now ranked fourth, trailing the Netherlands, France and Luxembourg, news agency Belga reported on Tuesday.

Since 2004, Belgium had the dubbious honour of having Europe's toughest traffic fines, partly because of what many Belgians consider as a dashed off way of reforming the law to reduce traffic accidents. I talked with a police officer a few days ago and he confessed to me that he also found aberrant to be forced to fine 150 euro (175 US$) to anyone parked with a wheel on the pavement/sidewalk, and twice as much if they left their door open, e.g. to buy some bread at the bakery. I don't see how that reduces traffic accidents. Likewise, someone would have their driving licence removed for driving 30km over the speed limit, even on a motorway/expressway, which has been the norm for as long as I can remember in Belgium.

But a new law was voted, and from 31 March 2006, and fines will now be "100% logical", the authorities claim. The government has made expenses in advertising, and even launched a brand new website for the occasion, explaining all the new fine system and reasons behind it in details (French version here (http://www.jesuispour.be/)). The website isn't so easy to navigate (had to search for the fines in question), but that's another problem.

In short, there are now 4 degrees of infractions :

1st degree (fine = 50 euro) : impeding or dicourteous behaviour, forget one's seat belt or winker/blinker, drive on the bus lane, ride a bicycle without a light at night.

2nd degree (fine = 100 euro) : pass an amber light, use a mobile phone while driving (except if using a hands free kit), drive without anti-fog lights when there is fog, park in a zone for the handicapped, stop in a dangerous place...

3rd degree (fine = 150 euro) : pass a red light, overtaking over a white line, overtake near a pedestrian crossing, endanger a pedestrian or cyclist...

4th degree (fine = to settle in court) : U-turn on a motorway/expressway, racing with other cars, incite to excessive speed, pass a level crossing...

Speeding fines now become tougher in cities than on motorways (obviously !), and even tougher near schools or children playing areas (well-indictated).

The big improvement is that speeding fines are now proportional to the speed, with 5 to 10 euro of fine (depending on the type of road) for every km/h exceeding the speed limit. The old system had levels, so that one used to pay 50 euro for up to 10km/h in excess, then 150 euro between 11 and 20km/h in excess, and 175 euro above that. On roads where speed was limited to 23, 30 or 50 km/h (like in urban areas), the old system had a crazy 550 euro fine for exceeding the speed limit by 20km/h or more. From 31 March, it will be "only" 50 euro for 1km/h in excess, then 25 euro for every additional km/h (so 150 euro for driving 20km above the speed limit).

If I agree with the new speeding gradation, I still feel that the rest is still far from "100% logical". After living in Tokyo, I got used to cars always passing at the amber light, and occasionally at the red. Not a big problem, especially when one can clearly see that there is nobody there. As for the winkers, I only use them when someone is following me. It's plain nonsense to use them on a country road when nobody is there to see it. I would be highly disappointed in my country's legal system if they installed some surveillance cameras to check that too, and fine me for not alerting the birds and cows that I am going to turn (but I am pretty sure the Belgian police has fined and will fine again people for abberations like that).

I feel that not wearing one's seat belt should be a 3rd degree infraction, as it is potentially more dangerous than passing an amber light.

As for using a mobile phone, I believe it's fine when waiting at the red light, or even driving on a straight motorway with little traffic. Overtaking a white line is sometimes necessary when a tractor driving at 30km/h on a country road. So I think if one wants to be perfectly reasonable, each situation should be taken in a case by case fashion. For example, I wouldn't pay a fine if my bicycle's light broke down just a few minutes before passing a policeman (that would not be my fault).