Priority to the right – Driving rules

Belgium has some very confusing rules about priority, or the right of way, when driving on the road, at least it will seem like that to non-Europeans. Let’s start with the default rule:

  • On an intersection, traffic coming from your right-hand side has priority. You have priority upon traffic coming from your left-hand side.

To clarify, an intersection is not only crossroads, it is any junction or side-road. To further clarify most intersections have signs that overrule the default ruling.

  • Exceptions: Signs showing you have priority.
    1. Diamond sign (B9):
      DIAMOND Belgian_road_sign_B9This sign is posted along the side of the road, it might be on top of another sign, like above the speed sign in the photo below. This sign indicates that the road next to it has priority on the next intersection. As with all non-zonal signs, this sign is only valid until just after the next intersection. So the sign must be repeated after the next intersection or it is no longer valid. This same sign with a black diagonal band on top it, cancels the priority. This sign is mostly used on provincial roads with multiple lanes. Click here for a real-life photo.
    2. Rocket sign (B15):
      Belgian_road_sign_B15This sign is widely used in urban areas, it is posted ahead of an intersection to show that you have priority. The sign can be adjusted a little according to the layout of the intersection. As with all non-zonal signs it is only valid until just after the next intersection.
    3. Layout sign (B0):
      Belgian_road_sign_B0This sign is mostly used at complex intersections. It is posted along side the road that has priority. The road that has priority is indicated by the thicker line on the sign. As with all non-zonal signs it is only valid until just after the next intersection.
  • Exceptions: Signs showing you don’t have priority.
    1. STOP sign:
      Belgian_road_sign_B5This one is easy, this is the same all over the world. It means you have to come to a full stop and you don’t have priority. You have to stop right at the location of the sign. Most of the time there is also a big white band on the road to indicate the place to stop. Click here for a real-life photo.
    2. Yield sign:
      96px-Belgian_road_sign_B1.svgThis sign indicates you don’t have priority and should slow down to check before continuing. You have to yield to other traffic. You don’t have to come to a full stop if not necessary. Usually the sign is accompanied by shark teeth painted on the road. Click here for a real-life photo.
  • Exceptions: other
    1. Roundabout sign:
      RoundaboutThis sign indicates that you are about to drive on to a roundabout. Cars already on the roundabout always have priority. Beware of bicycles, when the bicycle lane is on the roundabout road they have priority on all traffic, so look before you exit the roundabout. On newer roundabouts the bicycle lane is separated from the road and then there are small yield signs posted for the bicyclists. But beware most bicyclists will cross anyway.

Images of the traffic signs are in the public domain. Images used from Wikipedia. Photos are copyrighted.

6 thoughts on “Priority to the right – Driving rules

  1. When will Belgium get into the 21st century. Priority on the right was invented by Napoleon for people on horseback and is totally absurd for modern motor traffic.

    1. Much of our law system is still based on the standards by Napoleon. He was a clever man and launched Western-Europe in to the future.
      For local small town roads it’s not absurd at all, it makes sure there is a default rule when no signs are available.
      I myself live in Belgium and I’m fine with this system.

      1. Actually, if it’s a very busy main road it will probably have priority signs. But sometimes I find it confusing as well. For instance a road where one intersection is priority to the right and next intersection on the same road, only 100m further has priority signs instead of to the right.

        But for rural roads, it’s just fine.

        And no Belgium is not the only country, France & the Netherlands have this as well, and probably many more. I guess that’s it just more rare.

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