Relaxing smogalert

Last week there was too much "fine dust" in the air in Belgium, coming from the Ruhr in Germany. Because it was windstill, our government launched for the first time a smog alert. As a result we were only allowed to drive 90 km/h on the highways rather than 120km/h. Although it was a typical Belgian decision: in the Flemish region we had to drive 90, in the Brussels region we had to drive 50 and in the Wallonian region the minister stated that the Frenchspeaking drivers were smart enough to drive slower without a rule making it mandatory.

As good Belgians, on Wednesday morning you did not notice much difference on our highways, partly because not all the signs were in place already (296 road signs that were already in place for one year had to be manually turned around!) but also mostly because of the Belgian mentality "it doesn't hurt to break a rule as long as I don't get caught".

Consciously or unconsciously the media played a good media campaign in favor of the goverment. By noon all news editions and news papers started reporting that that a few thousands of drivers had already been fined for driving too fast and the fines could go up from 55 euro to 2500 euro and loss of drivers licence. There were debates on tv that the government did not communicate well enough, that the signs were not visible enough, etc and that those drivers should be forgiven.

The result of all the media attention was that on Thursday and Friday all of a sudden hardly any car went faster than 100km/h. Obviously we still break the rule a little, but we all had slowed down considerably. Now that we risked to pay, we slowed down because apparently we could get caught.

In the mean time the weather is changing, the wind picked up and all the technicions could turn all the road signs backwards again until the next smog alert. There is still a lot of controversy whether this rule is effective for the climate and our health or not. But I hear comments everywhere that driving on our roads on Thursday and Friday was so much less stressfull than usual and I agree! We all just went in a gentle flow, without passing by or rushing, without difficulties to merge lanes since we all drove the same speed more or less.
Maybe it is a bad rule against smog, but a good one for road safety and anti-stress??? But of course only if we fear enough to be caught otherwise we'll start speeding again.


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