Traffic fatalities rise in 2013

Following a 25% drop in number of road fatalities in 2012, this year's number of such deaths increases.

December 29, 2013 19:22
Traffic accident in Israel [Illustrative]

Traffic Accident 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Israel Police)

A trend in decreasing annual traffic fatalities celebrated in 2012 proved irrelevant in 2013, a year in which 303 people died in road accidents, as of Sunday.

Although 2012 featured a 25 percent drop in road fatalities in comparison to the previous year, in 2013 the number of such deaths increased, according to the NGO Or Yarok, which compiled data provided by the National Road Safety Authority.

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Since the beginning of 2013, 303 people have been killed in road accidents – with seven of these deaths occurring in the past four days alone – 287 people died from the beginning of the year through December 29 in 2012, the data said.

As of Sunday, the number of traffic fatalities in 2013 therefore represents a 5.6% increase in comparison to such incidents in 2012.

“Unfortunately, the downward trend in the number of traffic fatalities was halted this year, and the State of Israel has failed to protect road users,” said Shmuel Aboav, CEO of Or Yarok. “The state must put the issue of accidents at its top priority.

I call upon the transportation minister to invest resources in saving lives on the roads. We have shown that it is possible to win this war and road accidents are not fatally predestined.”

Deaths from road accidents rose particularly among young drivers, motorcyclists and scooter operators, Or Yarok explained.

Trucks were also increasingly involved in the fatal accidents, as were members of the Arab sector, the organization said.

The rise of young drivers, between the ages of 15 and 24, killed in 2013 was “unprecedented,” according to Or Yarok.

While in 2012, 18 young drivers died in road accidents, in 2013 that number grew to 38.

In order to curb the rate of young driver fatalities, Or Yarok recommended changing the nature of driving lessons, stressing that 28 lessons are insufficient and that driving safety should already be taught in schools in grades 9 and 10.

As far as motorcyclists and scooter operators are concerned, 48 of these drivers were killed in road accidents in 2013, representing an increase of more than 20% in comparison to the 39 such deaths in 2012, Or Yarok said.

Of the 48 fatalities, 41% of them occurred among young drivers, the organization added.

In response to this jump in two-wheeler fatalities, Or Yarok accused the Israeli government of “ignoring and abandoning” motorcyclists on the roads.

The organization stressed that the government must better adapt the road infrastructure to motorcycles and scooters, and take steps, such as installing safety barriers that will protect these drivers as well as changing the paint used on the roads to a product that is not slippery when wet.

In addition, the government can encourage the use of motorcycle safety equipment by lowering the taxes associated with their purchase, Or Yarok said.

Fatal accidents involving trucks also increased by 20% from 2012 to 2013, jumping from 50 to 62 incidents. In two of these accidents, multiple people died – six people on April 1 in a truck and car collision and four people on August 4 in a bus and truck collision.

Trucks up to 34 tons in weight are six times more likely to be involved in crashes in comparison to cars, and trucks weighing more than 34 tons are 24 times more likely to be involved than cars, Or Yarok data said.

In order to reduce the number of fatalities, the organization suggested stepping up truck integrity examinations, weight checks and periodic evaluations of truck drivers, as well as placing responsibility on employers and safety officers.

Israel’s Arab sector in particular saw a jump in traffic fatalities, with an approximately 12% increase in road deaths in 2013 in comparison to the year before.

In 2013, 108 traffic fatalities were recorded in the Arab sector.

Although the non-Jewish segment makes up about 20% of Israel’s population, about 36% of traffic fatalities fall within this sector, according to Or Yarok.

Therefore, it is crucial to invest funds in improving road infrastructure in Arab villages, the organization said.

In addition, the Education Ministry should increase road safety education in the population’s schools as well as increase police presence in the respective villages, Or Yarok stressed.

All in all, from the beginning of 2013 through Sunday, a total of 78 drivers, 63 passengers, 94 pedestrians, 14 cyclists, 21 children and 52 seniors died in road accidents, the organization said.

The National Road Safety Authority released figures related to alcohol and driving on Sunday, and warned revelers to stay off the roads while intoxicated.

Drunk driving in Israel is the condition in which blood alcohol concentration climbs above 0.05%, though young, and all new drivers, must maintain a level below 0.01%, the Road Safety Authority said.

Alcohol is responsible for between roughly 20% and 40% of all road fatalities, the authority explained.

The chances of a driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.15% to be involved in an accident is 48 times that of a driver who is sober.

Meanwhile, the chances of a young driver with a 0.05% blood alcohol level to be involved in an accident is 2.5 times higher than those of an experienced driver with the same blood alcohol level, the authority said.

“For alcohol and driving there is no ‘just a drop’ – any quantity of alcohol impairs driving abilities: concentration, coordination, visual function, distribution of attention, reaction time and the ability to maintain permissible speeds or drive within the lane,” a statement from the National Road Safety Authority said.

Refusal to take an alcohol test can result in one year of imprisonment or a fine of NIS 10,000.

Those caught driving under the influence will receive 10 points on their licenses as well as a court subpoena, with a minimum penalty of license revocation for two years, the authority said.

For all revelers this New Year’s Eve, the authority recommended establishing a designated driver, order a taxi or take advantage of the 56 special night bus lines that will be available throughout the country until the wee hours of the morning.

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