BELGIUM'S CULTURE OF CRASHES
September 25, 2006
An old rule of thumb -- always yield to any vehicle coming from one's right -- coupled with a shortage of stop signs makes driving in Belgium a dangerous proposition, says the Wall Street Journal.
To make matters worse, cars on many of the smallest side streets still qualify for priority over those on major thoroughfares -- so long as they are coming from the right. That forces drivers on many boulevards to slam on their brakes without warning, causing some to get rear-ended.
Overall, failing to yield is the cause of more than two-thirds of the accidents at unmarked Belgian intersections that result in bodily injury and contribute to Belgium's relatively high traffic fatality rate, says Jacoby.
- Last year, 11.2 per 100,000 drivers in Belgium died from driving accidents.
- Other countries have more stop signs and traffic lights; by comparison, deaths in the Netherlands were 4.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, 6.1 in Germany and 8.7 in France -- countries that border Belgium.
- Although the United States has a higher number of fatalities in absolute numbers --14.5 per 100,000 inhabitants -- there are more cars on the street in the United States, as a percentage of the population, than in Belgium; Americans also spend on average more time in their cars, traveling longer distances.
- When the difference in the number of cars is accounted for, Belgium has 22.4 traffic deaths per 100,000 cars compared with 18.1 in the United States.
The government is trying to change the law in response to insurance company complaints and in an effort to encourage all drivers to slow down and pay more heed at intersections -- hopefully bringing Belgium's driving laws on par with the rest of the world.
Source: Mary Jacoby, "As Cars Collide, Belgian Motorists Refuse to Yield," Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2006.
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