Looking at your cell phone while driving is considered as of January 15 as a 3rd degree offence. This increases the fine from 116 to 174 euros, placing the price of the GSM consultation at a level much higher than that of the doctor. The decision adopted by Parliament did not meet with many opponents. Only the PTB judged the measure unfair because the fine will mainly hurt low-income people. But the argument was quickly swept away because it then concerns the entire fines system. Vlaams Belang abstained. All the other formations voted “for”.

Result, to put it simply, only devices attached to the vehicle will escape the sanction, in all other cases, the mere presence of a mobile phone or any device with a screen (computer or tablet) near the driver may be subject to a fine.

For Benoit Godart of the VIAS Institute, this measure became necessary in view of the observations observed in terms of accidents, VIAS regularly reminds us: “Distraction caused by cell phone use is responsible for at least 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries on Belgian roads every year”.

Smart cameras may be overdue

The wish expressed by the police authorities is to be able to have intelligent cameras placed on the entire road network. They could detect without technical difficulty by their precision this type of infringement. A device is also in the test phase at the Beez viaduct, in the Namur region. These intelligent cameras placed on a high mast can legally detect several types of offense but not that relating to the use of screens in vehicles. Because it contravenes the rules on respect for privacy by allowing via these very precise cameras to identify many details inside the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Pending a possible removal of this obstacle, via technical modifications which would restrict these devices to make them more “soft”, the controls are for the moment operated exclusively in a traditional way by the traffic police in collaboration with local police areas.

Fixed speed camera images used as evidence of the offense

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An obvious sign that the battle for images is on, for lack of smart cameras, the traffic police intend to use the equipment they can already legally hold and use: “we can get the static photos taken by current speed cameras when drivers are speeding” tells us Didier Dochain, the head of the road police in Namur: “and if we see on a picture that the driver is using a cell phone, we issue a fine for this second offence”.

The return of trivialized checks to obtain “flags”

The other most effective means of control is to observe drivers leaving an unmarked police vehicle. Targeted checks carried out in collaboration with local police: “These checks by means of unmarked vehicles make it possible to note the infringements, because the users have quickly done otherwise to lower the arm or to pose the telephone on the knees at the approach of a patrol”. If the increase in the fine will have the effect of dissuading the most reasonable from using their devices while driving, the others will continue hoping to escape checks and… accidents. For them, this reminder from VIAS: writing, sending and reading an SMS while driving multiplies the risk of an accident by six.

Report from our 7:30 p.m.:

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