Tjerk Westerterp, minister for seatbelts and helmets, dies at 92

Tjerk Westerterp at a KVP party meeting in 1966. Photo: Anefo/Nationaal Archief

Former transport minister Tjerk Westerterp, who made seat belts compulsory and went on to devise the AEX stock index, has died at the age of 92.

Westerterp was an MP for the Catholic People’s Party (KVP), which later merged into the Christian Democrats (CDA), between 1963 and 1978, as well as serving in two cabinets during that period.

He was junior minister for European affairs between 1971 and 1973 before spending four years as minister for transport and water management in the Labour-led den Uyl cabinet until 1977.

Westerterp, who lost a child in a road accident, introduced a number of measures to improve road safety, including mandatory seat belts in cars, safety helmets for motorcyclists and tachographs in HGVs – the latter in the face of strong protests by lorry drivers.

As transport minister during the oil crisis of the 1970s, he organised a competition for waterproof clothing to encourage people to cycle to work rather than take the car.

After leaving politics he was appointed CEO of the Amsterdam stock exchange, where he launched the AEX index, comprising the 25 largest companies, in 1983.

Westerterp remained involved in road safety issues, but he was not always on the side of reform. In 1993 he staged a one-man protest against the introduction of carpool lanes by driving unaccompanied on the day Europe’s first such lane was opened on the A1.

He received a fine, which he successfully contested in court on the grounds that the concept of carpooling had no legal basis. The lanes, introduced by CDA transport minister Hanja Maij-Weggen, were abolished soon afterwards.

Westerterp’s family announced his death at his home in Ulvenhout on Sunday via press agency ANP.

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