Government reconsiders compulsory siren use for emergency vehicles amid criticism

A new measure that would make the use of sirens mandatory for priority vehicles from 1 February is being reviewed after objections from the emergency services and some mayors, the office of Interior minister Annelies Verlinden said on Tuesday.

Belgium's federal minister for Mobility, Georges Gilkinet, has made a number of changes to the Highway Code, which governs traffic on the country's motorways. He has also adjusted the rules for priority vehicles. From 1 February, police cars, ambulances, fire engines and other priority vehicles will have to activate their lights and sirens at all times in an emergency.

At the moment, they only have to do this when driving through a red traffic light or to make sure other road users give way. In other cases - such as driving faster than the speed limit or crossing a full white line - only the blue flashing lights are required. The proposed change brought complaints from emergency services and mayors.

A common example is an ambulance that has to drive into a residential area with its siren on at night during an emergency call, or the possibility of offenders being "warned" minutes in advance that police are on their way.

'Absurd measure'

According to a spokesperson for Verlinden, her cabinet has passed on these complaints to the Gilkinet cabinet. It was agreed that the regulations would be analysed and that advice from the Verlinden cabinet would be taken into account.

One of the most vocal opponents of the new measure is the mayor of Ghent, Mathias De Clercq.

"This measure is absurd and has not been coordinated at all with local authorities, police or fire brigades," he said on Tuesday. He believes that police, fire and ambulance services should decide for themselves when to sound the siren. "These people know their job, they have a lot of experience and I have every confidence that they will use the siren when necessary."



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