Understanding and Navigating Speed Limit Confusion in Brussels: Expert Tips and Resources

2023-09-02 08:13:00

It has become a daily headache for thousands of motorists traveling in the Brussels region: since the passage of the whole of the agglomeration in zone 30, except for a few roads still at 50 and even rarer at 70, it is sometimes difficult to decide on the speed to adopt. It is relatively easy in the narrow streets of the districts, sometimes less on rather wide roads which one might think of 50 km/h but which are actually set at 30 km/h. The figures speak for themselves: since the generalization of zone 30 in January 2021, speeding has exploded in Brussels. In 2022, the police fined 398,070 times for driving too fast. That is 28% more than in 2019, the last pre-covid reference year.

But if the inhabitants of Brussels and motorists from outside who come to the capital are sometimes confused regarding speed limits, our police forces can be too. Witness this affair which happened to Alain, a carolo driver in his fifties, a few months ago and who has just found, for him, a happy epilogue.

Several signs 50 km/h, but the radar verbalizes at… 30 km/h: it flashes chaussée de Ninove at the level of Prince de Liège

Last October, our man had the unpleasant surprise of finding a missive stamped with the police logo in his mailbox. These letters never being the harbingers of very good news, Alain was afraid of finding a copy of a report in them. And he was not disappointed: the 50-year-old was fined for having driven at 58 km / h instead of 30 on the avenue de Tervuren, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

A speed, corrected to 52 km/h by removing the technical margin of 6 km/h, which should have, according to federal police website, cost him no less than €194.06. Except that our man was convinced of it: if he admitted having driven, slightly, in excess of speed, this one might not be so important. Alain thought that at the checkpoint, the speed was indeed limited to 50 km/h and not 30 as indicated in the report.

The motorist and his lawyer checked directly: the panel was there at the time of the check. ©Jean Luc FLEMAL

The day following receiving the mail, our man went there. And actually found that he was within his rights. And he made it known to the prosecution via the classic appeal procedure. “It is indicated on the report that it is a zone limited to 30 km/h whereas at the height of the radar, it is indeed a zone at 50 km/h. A panel was regarding 50 m before the place where the verbalizer and his radar were stationed.

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The motorist also had the images from his dashcam for him. What force the prosecution to classify without further action? Without a response from the prosecution for many months, that’s what our motorist thought. Until the day when a new missive arrived in his mailbox at the end of February. “The King’s Prosecutor’s Office has studied your challenge and refuses it, he received as a response. The fine therefore remains maintained.” With an invitation to pay within ten days, under penalty of an increase in the fine.

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Convinced in his own right, Alain then turned to Maître Bruno Gysels, lawyer specializing in traffic. “Not only did the prosecutor’s office take more than four months to refuse the challenge but, in addition, he did not give reasons for it in any way”, thunders Maître Gysels. Which therefore also lodged a challenge with the police prosecutor’s office, requiring the filing without immediate follow-up of the file, for the reasons given above, namely the error of limitation during the control.

How to make the parquet bend? Nay! Alain therefore had to go to the police court. And the judge, in less time than it takes to write it, decided to acquit the Carolo on August 1st. “My client was even ready to pay for having driven at 52 km/h, corrected speed, instead of 50, but the judge apparently took into account the energy expended by him to assert his rights. ”

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For Maître Gysels, this affair, which might have been closed in a day but finally took almost a year to do so – and will therefore have cost civil society quite a lot of money -, alone bears witness to the dysfunctions from the police prosecutor’s office. “It makes you wonder if the prosecution really reads the protests sent by citizens or if it is not content to send stereotyped refusals. This case should have taken a few days, it lasted almost a year!”

The lawyer is also worried regarding the fate of the many motorists who, having failed to check, will have paid the fine without contesting, or who will have ended up “giving in to pressure from the prosecution” following a dispute was refused. “How many people have been fined when they shouldn’t have been? As citizens, we are supposed to trust the police. But the policeman in charge of control that day was obviously mistaken. This is all the more unacceptable since it takes a year to have the evidence accepted.

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