Belgium: reform of category B driver training and testing
In Belgium, a reform of category B driver training and testing was introduced on September 1 2006.
The objectives of the reform
Why reform the driver training system ?
Young drivers are over-represented in accident statistics. Proportionally, they represent the group with the most accidents. An improved driver training scheme should help resolve this problem.
The training system in place before September 2006 put too much emphasis on mastering risk and not enough on avoiding risk. Our focus should not only be on learning basic technical skills (vehicle mastery) but also on information processing in traffic, adequate risk evaluation, good behaviour in traffic in general and self-control. These skills are not learnt in the short-term. This is why the government developed a reform based on a system of multiple steps, where the young driver gradually acquires more experience and progressively gains the rights to more participation in traffic. The previous system of driver training was also too complicated. Without going into too much detail, the learner driver had to chose from one of 4 learner licences under the old system: 3 variations using driving schools (models 1,2 and 3) and one involving private supervision. All of them involved a minimum of 3 months learning period and a maximum of 18 months. The exact requirements depended on whether or not the learner took lessons in a driving school, on how many lessons they took, and if they learned with a private supervisor (e.g. parent).
These different training options for a category B licence were replaced by the following system:
The candidate takes his/her theory test. This is possible from 17 years old.
Two ‘learning formulas’ are then possible :
Formula n.1 : having passed the theory test, the candidate receives a provisional licence valid for a period of 3 years. (Once this period has expired, the candidate can only renew his provisional licence by re-taking the theory test). During this learning period, the candidate has to be accompanied by a person who has held a category B driving licence for at least 8 years. One further person can be carried as a passenger.
Formula n. 2: the candidate can choose to follow training in a driving school. Within this option, each driving school must offer a package which has a maximum of 6 hours training. If the candidate has taken 20 hours of driving school training, and he/she is at least 18 years old, the candidate is allowed to drive for up to 18 months without a supervisor (i.e. before taking the practical driving test). In such cases, the candidate can also carry one additional passenger who must be at least 24 years old and be a category B licence holder. The provisional licence without a supervisor cannot be renewed after the 18 months has expired.
In both of the above cases, the candidate is not allowed to drive between 10pm and 6am on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or during and before national holidays.
Following a period of at least 3 months in training, the candidate can take the practical driving test. Each time the candidate fails twice at the practical driving test, he/she must follow a further 6 hours of driver training at a driving school before being able to register for the test again. Once the candidate has passed the practical driving test, he/she must not commit any serious driving offences in the first two years of full licensing. Persons committing such offences in this probationary period will be obliged to relinquish their licence and re-take the theory and practical test.
The practical driving test procedure
Since December 1 2006, the manoeuvring exercises on a private ground, which preceded the on-road part of the practical driving test, have been transferred to the open road. The private ground part of the test