Weblog Ken – New Belgian fine mainly targets foreign drivers under the influence

Our man in Flanders

Belgian Police Volvo V90

Driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs remains a major problem in Belgian traffic. That is why outgoing Minister of Mobility Georges Gilkinet (Ecolo) wants new measures, including a hefty fine with which the government also targets foreign drivers.

The hard figures first: every day, 33 drivers are fined in Belgium for driving under the influence of drugs. Worse still, according to traffic institute VIAS, 5 percent of respondents simply admit that they have driven under the influence of drugs. In the 18 to 34 age group, that number would even rise to one in seven. Considering these are official figures, this is just the tip of a dangerous iceberg.

Fine of €1,260 or confiscation

Although there is already a checklist in addition to the saliva test to detect drug use in traffic, the minister wants a new checklist. This would allow police officers to take legal action if the substance used is undetectable or if the results of the saliva test are inconclusive. The new indicators are a detectable odor, possession of illegal material, a refusal to cooperate and the possible confession of the driver. In these cases, the police may impose a bail amount of €1,260, which will be held in custody pending the trial and can be used as a deposit for the fine imposed by the judge. In addition, offenders also risk having their vehicle confiscated.

It is striking that the fine is specifically aimed at foreign directors, who are apparently well represented in the statistics. This is a problem, especially in the border regions with northern France and the southern Netherlands, sometimes even resulting in cross-border pursuits. Collecting fines from non-Belgians is apparently not going smoothly either, which is why immediate deposits and seizures are now being considered. Moreover, an imposed driving ban only applies to Belgian territory, so foreigners do not suffer any consequences in their own country. All this must change with the new system, especially because this measure gives the police more freedom to impose and collect fines on the spot.

Driving ban for cyclists under the influence

Anyone who, after all that, thinks ‘I’ll take the bike next time when I’m in Belgium’ should also be careful. Recently, more and more reports have emerged about cyclists who are banned from driving under the influence – also for cars. Now that is certainly not a priority for the police services, but it is a so-called security measure for cyclists who go too far. The last report was about someone who had 1.8 per mille in his blood, was cycling with a smartphone in his hand and had no front or rear lights. The best man suddenly had his driver’s license revoked for 15 days, to ensure that he would not get into a car later that evening or endanger himself further.

Why immediately for 15 days, we already hear the responders sighing? Because Belgian law does not provide for any other term. As mentioned, it is not a punishment but a security measure. The infringement will then be presented to the police judge, who will in turn pronounce the real sentence. Until 2017, this was an automatic driving ban again, but nowadays this is treated more leniently if the driver’s license was revoked earlier. This measure also applies to pedestrians who commit serious violations. For example, a woman from Ninove was recently banned from driving for six months because she ignored a closed level crossing with a pram. She then had to retake all driving tests. So you have been warned.

– Thanks for information from Autoweek.nl

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