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United States Army
ID/CAC Card Processing
St-Stevens-Woluwe Belgium 1932
Figuring out the best way to get around is important when you’re in a new installation. It’s useful to understand the various regulations, local laws as well as license and registration requirements. Whether you need a driver’s license, transport a car overseas or want help buying a car, there are people to assist you at your new installation. Check out the topics below to find information and regulations on vehicles and registration at your base.
Installation Specific Information
Obtaining a Driver's License
Prior to traveling to Europe, all drivers should check their stateside driver's license for an expiration date. The US license needs to be valid as long as possible, as it is difficult to renew some of them when not present in USA. If the license is expired before they get their SHAPE and or Belgium license it is a problem as they will not accept it. Many states can process a renewal by mail. Applying for an International Driver's License in the United States is recommended. There is no obligation to get an International License, It is suggest to get a Belgium license once here and once you obtained your Belgian ID. As soon as you arrive in Belgium contact the drivers testing section for more information in order to take the POV briefing and pass the test. You can either call SHAPE at DSN 314-000-000 or CIV 011-32-65-000000 or Brussels DSN 314-597-9944 or CIV 011-32-2-280-9944.
Military drivers with a motorcycle endorsement on their US State side license must also have a valid MSF certification if they want to ride their motor cycle in Europe. The MSF card is valid 5 years. A new course MUST be taken to renew the card once it has expired. In Belgium, MSF courses take place at Chièvres Garrison form April to October.
When arriving in Belgium, the motorcyclist must present his MSF card to the Driver Testing Section and take a written test about the Belgian code in addition to the regular Driver Course. After successfully completing the test, he will be able to obtain a license and register his motorcycle.
Military Driver's License (All Communities)
Briefing for military driver's license (GOV) is offered at SHAPE, USAG Benelux-Brussels, and USAG Benelux Schinnen. You must also provide a copy of a recent eye test and hearing test. For civilians you need also to provide a certificate of employment and a memo signed by your supervisor. Call your local Driver's Testing Office for more information.
Dependents (All Communities)
Family members who are 16 and 17 years of age and who hold a valid stateside driver's license, must wait until they are 18 years old to drive a car in Europe. Those who arrive without a driver's license recognized by the Belgian government and who wish to start driving must go to a European driving school prior to taking a written exam and road test (this is a lengthy and costly process). Note: Going back to the United States to obtain a U.S. driver's license does not entitle you to acquire a SHAPE or Belgian driver's license.
Europe has a high cost of living. Prices for auto insurance are especially high. Variables include your age, your car's age, engine size, make, model and weight. Liability insurance is mandatory and ranges from 400 to 1000 euros per year. Shop around when purchasing insurance (there are several options for insurance such as Geico, USAA and local European insurance companies). Check with your current insurer and, if you do not use them, ask them for a letter stating the length of time of service and any claims you have had. This letter could help you reduce the amount of insurance you will have to pay. You must ask your insurance company for a green insurance card.
All vehicles 4 years old and above must go through "Controle technique" before they can be registered. Talk to your sponsor and other US personnel about the process. They can be of good advice, recommend you perhaps (and if you feel it is needed) a garage that can pre-inspect your car to make sure everything is in order. The “Control technique” will determine if your vehicle is conforming to European vehicle standards (for example you have to make sure you have a rear fog light installed – which is required in Belgium but generally absent from US cars).
If you fail the “Controle technique” you must return to the same inspection location after correcting the failed items and they will check only the problems that were marked on the form. You have to return to the Control Technique within 15 days.
You must also go to the “Controle technique” when you want to privately sell your vehicle regardless of its age.
Motorcycles aren’t required to go through “Controle technique.”
If you are SHAPE sponsored report to the Registration Office located in building 210, Room 110, SHAPE. The following documents are needed:
Upon completion of your application, the Registration Office will obtain your certificate of registration and give you a set of two license plates. The complete date appears on the registration certificate. To renew your registration, report to the Registration Office at least ten days prior to the expiration date.
There is an annual road tax on cars in Belgium based on the vehicle engine size. You are exempt from this tax for one car (beware that road tax in Belgium is expensive, so use the exemption for the vehicle that has the largest size engine). If you intend to bring two vehicles, the second will be taxed unless your spouse is also a Service Member or employed by the government and has the right to a tax-free car. A statement of work will be needed for the exemption.
Mandatory safety items
Red warning triangle European approved/ first aid kit/ Belgian approved fire extinguisher/ 1 or 2 reflective vests/ You must get a red rear fog light installed on the rear left of the vehicle (e.g. under the bumper). For child safety information contact the Drivers Testing section.
Driving in Europe
As you will soon discover, traffic is quite congested in European cities and may seem more hectic than in the United States. International road signs are used and all distances are given in kilometers. Driving laws differ from the United States; personnel in Belgium and the Netherlands should be aware of hazardous driving conditions. In addition, you must be 18 years old to drive in Europe and you must possess a valid U.S. driver's license. Note: It is against the law to use a cell phone while driving a vehicle, unless you are using a hands-free operating system. Always wear your seatbelt. Remember too the number of seatbelts equals the number of passengers.
One of the major differences in rules is the priority to the right. Driver's entering the road from the right have the right of way. Most intersections do not have stop signs and depend on the priority of right rule for right of way. This is a major cause for accidents in Europe. Right turn on red is forbidden, unless there is a green filter arrow pointing to the right allowing for such maneuver. Driving in Europe can be aggressive. You will most likely experience tailgating, dangerous passing and speeding. If you find yourself being tailgated, stay calm and do not speed. Be alert at all times and take note of traffic patterns on the roads you frequently drive.
School Bus Safety
It is important to discuss with your children that the European bus system does not employ the same school bus safety laws as in the United States. Traffic does not stop for children getting on/off a school bus. Safety monitors do not accompany children while getting on/off a school bus. There are no safety monitors who walk the children across the street. The system in Europe does not use the same yellow school bus model that is used in the United States. School buses are the same type as those used for public transportation in the local towns and villages. School buses in Belgium are marked with a yellow sign with the "children crossing" symbol. The sign is located on the front and on the rear of the bus.
When children embark/disembark the school bus, the warning lights are turned on. Traffic is required to slow down and possibly stop, however that isn't always the case. It is advised that you thoroughly discuss safety rules with your children, paying particular attention to crossing roads.
In addition to driving at faster speeds, U.S. personnel must also adapt to hazardous road conditions such as fog and black ice. Black ice, presents a very real and common driving hazard during the winter months. It has a shiny wet appearance and is often found under bridges and in shaded areas. Fog is usually at its highest density in the early mornings, reducing visibility by mere inches. For those residing in Belgium, vehicles imported from the United States must have a rear fog light installed. Fog lights are available at AAFES and most local gas garages.
Accidents and Emergencies
When an accident occurs, especially if injuries are involved, police may insist that drivers undergo a Breathalyzer test. Refusal of such a test may result in driver's license suspension or even arrest. Belgian and Dutch law requires all parties involved in an accident to remain at the scene as long as needed by police. Proof of identity may be requested. Note that in Belgium everyone must carry their ID card at all times. The Good Samaritan Law applies in Europe. It is against the law not to stop at the scene of an accident and render aid. Note: U.S. Military Police have no jurisdiction on the Belgian or Dutch economy. However, they may assist if needed.
Belgian auto routes have a speed limit of 120 kilometers (about 74 miles per hour).On the auto route the left lanes are for overtaking only. Right lane overtaking is illegal. National routes have a speed limit of 70 or 90 km depending on the region. City driving is 50 km, and near schools and some town centers 30 km. All posted speed limits should be followed.
Belgian police use cameras as a method of catching speeders, both on city streets and on the auto routes. The camera will take a photo of the license plate. Using a horn, flashing lights or making rude hand gestures are forbidden in Belgium.
Check the terms of your car's warranty. It may require the dealer to perform needed repairs free of charge. Don't tell the mechanic what you think needs to be fixed unless it's obvious. Instead, describe the problem and its symptoms. Let the mechanic figure out what's wrong. For major repairs, consider getting a second opinion, even if you have to tow the car to another shop.
Before you leave the car, get a written estimate that clearly describes what you want done. Ask the shop to contact you before making repairs not covered in the estimate. If the shop does additional work without your approval, you don't have to pay for it. Keep copies off all work orders and receipts, and get all warranties in writing.
At some parking lots, you must pay at the time you park. Automatic machines dispense a ticket for the length of time you wish to park. You need to place the ticket in your windshield before leaving the lot and return before the time is up. The posted signs also indicates how long you're allowed to park in this lot.
In some parking lots you may be required to display a parking disk in your windshield. The signs for those lots will state zone bleu "disque de stationnement" (parking disk). Sometimes a maximum parking time will be indicated. When you park in an area which requires a parking disc, set the clock to the time you arrive and place it on your dashboard. Return to your car within 2 hours. You can purchase a blue parking disk at AAFES exchange, the ADAC, auto parts stores, or gas stations. Keep it in your car at all times.