Nicolas Maeterlinck

Surge in traffic fines

5 million traffic fines were issued last year.  That's a 21% increase in comparison with the previous year.  The increase is being attributed to cuts in red tape and a decrease in the amount of paperwork police need to fill in to issue a fine.  As a result they can issue more fines.

The 5 million fines demanded payments worth a half a billion euros, but justice minister Koen Geens stresses it's a matter of traffic safety, for the government it's not about the money.

The figures don't mean that the traffic skills of Belgian motorists have suddenly drastically deteriorated.  Digitalisation is the main reason for the increase.  In 2017 a new website was launched where drivers can immediately pay their fine.  Police officers no longer have to process fines themselves.

Police officers concentrate on recording infractions: they log speeding fines, drink-drive fines or a failure to wear a seat belt.  It's the justice department that processes the fines.  Police are now focusing on recording infractions instead of processing the fines and this too explains the rise.

The automatisation has been dogged by glitches though.  At the end of January it appeared 50,000 people were still waiting for an erroneously imposed traffic fine to be refunded.  Today 6,000 drivers are still waiting.  Drivers can also contest fines online, but this is proving to be a difficult procedure.  This is why the justice department hopes to launch a new website version soon.