Postcard from... Brussels


The 15,615 drivers in Belgium caught by a 24-hour speeding crack-down last week could hardly claim they were not given enough notice: weeks before the nationwide police operation, the Belgian Institute for Road Safety asked civic-minded citizens to suggest locations for the speed traps.

The Belgians responded with gusto, with more than 50,000 people submitting their suggestions in an online poll. So between 6am last Thursday and 6am Friday, more than 700 extra police officers spread out across the nation’s roads and 398,485 vehicles were snapped by the temporary cameras deployed throughout the country. As one police officer put it days before the operation was due to start, you’d have to be “a fool” to still put your foot down and get caught in that 24-hour window.

Yet despite the massive publicity for the campaign, nearly 16,000 drivers had apparently not been paying attention and were caught. They included Jurgen Soetens, a mayor of the Flemish town of Lierde, who told the public broadcaster VRT that even “mayors are human”. Another culprit who caught the public’s attention was a trucker who in 53 years of driving had never received a ticket.

Most offenders received on-the-spot fines, but 72 people also had their driving licences suspended for excessive speeding.

Overall, however, the number of people caught was lower than usual and the authorities hailed the exercise a great success in raising public awareness of the dangers of driving too fast.