In honor of the Knesset’s National Road Safety Day, the nation’s legislators tried out simulators that mimic the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol and while using a cellphone.

Led by Deputy Transportation Minister Tzipi Hotovely and the National Road Safety Authority, the simulations aimed to demonstrate how driving distractedly is a major issue, and that much of this distraction occurs as a result of cellphone use, Hotovely’s spokesman explained.

Approximately 20 percent of road accidents in Israel occur as a result of cellphone use while driving, and police have therefore stepped up their enforcement measures against this life-threatening offense, the spokesman said.

Knesset members were able to test out a number of simulators, including weaving through cones while wearing goggles that simulate alcohol influence and driving with a virtual monitor while using a cellphone.

“The participation of MKs in the safety exhibit is designed to raise public awareness toward the elements that distract drivers on the road and endanger life, with the most prominent among them being the use of cellphones while driving,” Hotovely said. “This phenomenon has been greatly magnified with the technological advancement of mobile phones, and is more pronounced among young drivers.”

Hotovely stressed that she intends to propose a bill that would allow police officers access to phone conversations of drivers during the times of accidents, as they currently lack tools to investigate accidents caused by using cellphones while driving.

Among the MKs who participated in the simulation event were Shuli Moalem- Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi), Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid), Shimon Ohayon (Likud Beytenu), Masud Gnaim (United Arab List), Hanna Swaid (Hadash), David Tsur (Hatnua), Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) and Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi).

In addition to holding the driving simulations, the Knesset also had a discussion about road safety on Tuesday in the Economic Affairs Committee, chaired by MK Avishay Braverman (Labor).

During the session, the committee members evaluated the effectiveness of traffic cameras at lowering the number of road accidents.

The CEO of road safety NGO Or Yarok, Shmuel Aboav, said that while he supports the traffic camera project as a whole, he finds fault in its execution.

Although a decade ago thentransportation minister Avigdor Liberman promised to place 300 cameras on the roads, there are only 59 cameras out there today, Aboav stressed. By deploying cameras on roads nationwide, the country would be able to reduce traffic accidents by 40%, he estimated.

Echoing Aboav’s sentiments, former chief scientist of the Transportation Ministry Dr. Amir Ziv Av said that placing 2,000 cameras all over the country would bring a 10% reduction in road accidents. Such a project, he predicted, would cost about NIS 500 million but would repay itself by reducing damage and life loss costs within one to two years.

Traffic Police Cmdr. Maj.- Gen. Moshe Edry described a particular section of the Krayot bypass road – Road 22 between Haifa and Acre – where there had been 20 accidents, one of which was fatal.

After these accidents and receiving dozens of calls from citizens complaining of speeding as well as seeing youths racing cars, the police decided to install cameras there, Edry explained.

Following the installation, the traffic accidents there decreased by 26%, he said.

In order for the system to truly succeed, however, the cameras require a support system that includes both enforcement by officers on the road and by judges in court, Edry added.

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