Monday, 19 December 2011

Drunk, or just stupid?

A friend thankfully survived a horrific car crash two weeks ago with minor injuries. Sitting at a red traffic light near to Zaventum airport, a drunk ploughed into the back of his car at 130kph. His car pretty much disintegrated.

There is no social stigma attached to drink-driving in Belgium, and it is a huge problem. Even as a pedestrian I have had a couple of terrifying moments here. But it is not just drink - Belgian drivers are, generally, ignorant, selfish, and of dubious competence. Coupled with roads that the Congolese would be ashamed of, its a dangerous mix.

Driving back from France a few days ago we encountered seriously heavy rain. Most Belgian motorways are made of concrete, and it would appear that no thought at all was given to surface water drainage when they were 'designed'. Potholes abound, and the motorway lights don't, for the most part, work.

In these conditions I found myself about 10 yards behind a transit van, at about 80kph, a lorry to my right throwing up water, and visibility virtually nil. Its not nice, I can assure you.

And so then I encountered an example of Belgian driving at its most typical. The frantic flashing of lights behind me told me that one of these morons desperately needed to get past me in a hurry. Now there is nothing I enjoy more than having some insignificant little gobshite trying to intimidate me. 'Being intimidated' is not something I do well, and so I treated him with the contempt he deserved and flicked up my mirror. It was neither the time or place for slowing him down further and inviting him to join me on the hard shoulder for a knuckle sandwich.

When the van and I cleared the lorry, needless to say our tailgater promptly overtook us on the inside before disappearing in a cloud of spray.

Belgium has a higher rate of road fatalities per capita than even Portugal - and anybody who has driven on the motorways there will know how special an experience that can be. Eastern European countries also fare badly, but it is interesting to note which are the countries with the lowest rates - the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands. I probably do not need to speculate on why that might be.

The lowest of all fatality rates is in Malta. It is hard to crash a donkey, I guess.

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