Our job is in part to show citizens that what the EU does matters to them. Yes, we try to be “citizen-friendly”, even if sometimes we know we won’t convince everybody about what we write… But, on the 11 February, let me tell you about my experience of 112, the European emergency number.
11 February is the European day of the 112, the emergency number that works all over Europe. Because yes, accidents do not always happen to others and they also do not always happen in your home country…
I remember very well the first and only time I used this number. At that time, I was living in Lille, in the North of France. We went – with my girlfriend – to the Belgian Ardennes for New Year’s Eve. Some friend had rented a house for partying all the night. We enjoyed the party very much and slept on the spot. The next day, 1st of January, we drove back home in the evening. It was already dark on the highway, with fog. Suddenly, something black appeared in the car’s light just in front of us. No time to think, no time to react. We drove over what seemed to be a coat – I just had this quick thought that if it were a person, I could not have done anything to avoid driving on it. On the hard shoulder, a car, all lights off. It could have been there for a long time, but somehow you could tell immediately that this car had just crashed. It’s maybe because of all the pieces of the car that were lying on the road, or maybe because you get that awful feeling that something terrible happened.
Breathe deeply, take your cell phone and call… 112.
We stopped on the hard shoulder to call the emergency services. In this kind of situation, you don’t really react in a reflective and objective way. Too many things are going through your mind. Breathe deeply, take your cell phone and call… 112. That may be a detail, but this number automatically came into my mind because I saw an communication campaign a few days before. Otherwise, I won’t have known who to call: French emergency numbers are 18 and 15, but they do not work in Belgium (I still don’t know the emergency number in Belgium…).
So I called the emergency services that asked me to check more precisely what happened. Fortunately some other people were arriving on the spot, one guy went to see into the car and I passed the information to the doctors. To be honest, I’m grateful that I did not have to go to see inside the car that was half the length it was before the accident.
The rest is only a typical story of a fatal car accident in Belgium (I won’t go into the question of the quality of Belgian roads here, nor into the broader question of road safety… So many things could be said and criticized). But what I learnt is that, in some unexpected and stressful situation where lives may depend on the rapidity of your reaction, you’re quite happy that a European campaign like the one for the 112 came to your mind. So spread the word about this number, it could save lives when you’re abroad!