“Put drunk drivers on bread and water”

A West Flemish magistrate has suggested issuing short prison sentences to those repeatedly found guilty of driving offences. Peter Vandamme, a police magistrate in the West Flemish city of Bruges told Saturday’s edition of the daily ‘De Standaard’ that “People that drive around as drunk as a lord, are in effect using their car as a weapon rather than as a mode of transport.

384 people are killed on the roads in Flanders each year, a high figure for a region of our size and population. Mr Vandamme believes that action needs to be taken to tackle the various causes of road deaths, one of which is most definitely drinking and driving.

"There are a group of people that aren’t in the least bit interested in road safety.”

"A couple of years ago I presided over a case in which the accused had caused a fatal accident on the motorway while driving drunk. He was sentenced and recently he was caught drink driving again at the same place. This kind of driver needs to be dealt with severely”.

Peter Vandamme practices what he preaches. Drunk drivers that have appeared before him at Bruges Magistrates Courts have had their vehicles confiscated.

However, he expresses concern about how sentences passed by magistrates are applied in practise. "First lawmakers come up with a host of rules and punishments for those that break them, only to then come up with a host of measures designed to avoid people being hurt by the punishment they have received."

Mr Vandamme cites those having been given an 8-day driving ban being able to opt to do their 8 days at the weekend or during their vacation as being a case in point.

"A driving ban is a driving ban. Go to work on your bike if necessary.”

The Magistrate believes that a get tough approach is the only way to deal with repeat offenders. "Lock up those that are repeatedly convicted of driving offences and put them on bread and water. I am convinced that a short sharp shock would set them thinking. It is perfectly simple. People that drive around as drunk as a lord are using their car as a weapon rather than as a mode of transport.”

Mr Vandamme concludes that “As far as I am concerned everyone should be able to enjoy themselves, but not if their behaviours costs someone else their life.”