Despite ambitious plans, Flanders never achieves objectives to reduce traffic casualties
Because Flanders has never met its targets for reducing the number of traffic deaths and serious injuries, it will be a major challenge to reduce the number of traffic deaths on Flemish roads to zero by 2050. This is what the Court of Audit states in a new report on Wednesday.
The Court of Audit investigated the approach of dangerous points in Flanders in the framework of an improved traffic safety. Since 2001, this traffic safety policy has been implemented in successive policy plans, the objectives of which were tightened up each time, but never achieved. However, in the most recent road safety plan, which Minister of Mobility and Public Works Lydia Peeters (Open VLD) proposed in 2021, the intermediate targets for 2025 (maximum 237 deaths) and 2030 (maximum 158 deaths) are lower than the targets for 2020 from the plan approved in 2016.
"This complicates the realisation of Vision Zero by 2050," the Court of Audit states, referring to the ambition to reduce the number of road deaths to zero by the middle of the century. "Also the objective to catch up with the frontrunners in Europe has not been achieved and is not even mentioned anymore. The Flemish targets do match the European ones."
As for the dangerous points themselves, the Court of Audit says that in 2002 the Flemish government decided to eliminate 800 of them over five years, with a budget of 500 million euro. It now appears that the full completion of that historic programme would not be achieved until the end of 2024, "more than 22 years after the start", the Court stresses. The exact cost of the programme is not known, but the infrastructure cost would already be at least 975 million euro, almost double the amount originally planned. To assess cost control, the Court of Audit does not have sufficiently reliable data.
Since 2018, a new approach is used, whereby a dynamic list of dangerous points is drawn up every year and quick wins are used. According to the Court of Audit, points that appear more than once on such a list should be given priority over one-off points. It also seems unrealistic for the inspection body to tackle all 580 dangerous points on the list since 2018 within a reasonable timeframe with the available budget and staff. The Agency for Roads and Traffic also has no insight into the total number of expenditures for road safety infrastructure.
In a reaction to the report, Minister Peeters says she agrees with the conclusions and recommendations. She wants to thoroughly evaluate both the historical programme and its dynamic operation.
"The Court of Audit's criticism is not insignificant," member of parliament Stijn Bex (Groen) responds. "The approach to the black spots is not sufficiently scientifically underpinned, there are too few people in the agency to really take on a governing role, quick wins are chosen too often and complex problems are left unsolved. And above all: the traffic flow is too often given priority over road safety", says Bex.
© BELGA PHOTO DIDIER DE HOE - Illustration picture shows the scene of a traffic accident in Hemptinne (Fernelmont), on the national road between Hanret and Wasseiges, on Thursday 28 April 2022.