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In Which Our Parked Car Causes an Accident

By - August 17, 2009 (Updated: December 21, 2017)

European Priority Signs

All of these signs indicate who has priority at an intersection. Nary a one is found in our neighbourhood.

When your door buzzer shrills loudly at 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning, it can never be good news. As I rolled over groggily I realised the bell-buzzer could only be one of two people – a drunk or a cop. I was hoping for the drunk.

Andrew sleepily staggered to the intercom. It was the police requesting Andrew to go to the station and file an accident report.

“On Sunday morning?”


Did I mention the accident Andrew had to rush to the police station and file a report on happened in April… and we weren’t even in the car?

About three weeks ago, Andrew was contacted by his insurance agency to make a written statement. It seemed someone was claiming our parked car had caused an accident because it was parked illegally and it obscured the view.

If you’ve spent any time on Cheeseweb, you probably know I don’t hold a great deal of respect for drivers in Belgium. You’ll also have probably noticed my complaints about the priority to the right rule. Our street is subject to this rule. At the end of our block a street enters. There are no stop, yield or any other sign to indicate priority, therefore the priority is to the right. There are accidents literally every week. I know this because I hear the serenade of screeching breaks, grinding metal and broken glass from my office.

The culprit is a combination of a blind corner where a house sits, obscuring the view, and the refusal of people driving in either direction to slow down and check for oncoming traffic.

The second major problem on our street is parking. If you’ve tried to park anywhere in central Brussels for a long period of time, you’ll know that this is complicated. People tend to abandon their cars wherever there is space, be it a sidewalk, cross-walk, street corner or curb.

In the past few months, we lost parking on a major street for the construction of a bus lane. Since then, parking in our neighbourhood has become even more difficult. So difficult in fact, people have taken to parking on the sidewalks overnight.

Our car was parked on the corner in question. Under normal circumstances this would be illegal but the police never penalise cars that park there because they know the parking situation is so dire.

So, even though there is a five story building blocking the view of the entering street, the driver at fault is trying to blame our parked car for the fact that she didn’t give right of way and slammed into the driver who had priority.

Andrew filed his statement, complete with videos of the intersection in question. Now we wait for the verdict. We’ve been told that in Belgian law, a stationary object can’t be responsible for an accident. It remains to be seen if this applies to stationary object owned by Canadians.

But the story doesn’t end there. Andrew was asked about his driver’s licence – his Canadian license which should by now be exchanged for a Belgian one. We know people who have lived here for over 10 years without changing their license but because of an accident that we weren’t even present for, we will now have to start another paperwork process which will inevitably result in more commune visits, more expenses and definitely more headaches.

Next time, we’re parking on the sidewalk.

Looking for more resources for living in Belgium? Check out our Expat Resources page.

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