‘Only stronger law enforcement will save lives on the roads’

April 7, 2010 05:19

Father of family wiped out in traffic accident demands accountability.

4 minute read.

Bryan Atinsky poses with his wife, Efrat, and two

bryan atinsky 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Only if drivers learn to fear arrest or penalty for even the smallest driving infraction will the number of traffic-related deaths in Israel be reduced, according to Bryan Atinsky, the American-born Israeli who lost his wife, Efrat, and two children, Noam, five, and Ya’ari, nine months, in a road accident last month in the South.

According to Atinsky – whose mother-in-law, Esther Gamliel, was also killed in the crash at the Negev Junction  – increasing laws or improving roads will not change the current reality, and educating school children toward better driving habits is too long-term. The matter needs to be dealt with immediately by increasing police patrols, stiffer fines, revoking licenses and even jail time.

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“The fact of the matter is that we have rules and laws already in place. So the question is not about creating new laws; the question is why in hell the police are not enforcing existing laws,” an emotional Atinsky told The Jerusalem Post in an interview Monday.

“Why is the budget so small? Why is the manpower so small? And why are resources not being put into tackling this when it is the No. 1 killer of Israelis?”

A spokesman for the Traffic Police responded that there are police patrolling the roads every day of the year and the number of officers has been increased in recent years. Although he could not give exact details of the police’s budget for enforcing traffic laws, he did note that figures from 2009 show a fall in the number of traffic accidents over the previous year.

However, official figures from the National Road Safety Authority indicate that 98 people have been killed on the roads thus far in 2010, compared to 83 people for the same period last year. The spokesman explained that more people have died but that overall there have been fewer accidents.

In a recent study, however, non-profit road safety organization Or Yarok found that more than 2,300 people have died on the roads since 2003. During the week in March that Atinsky’s family was killed, an additional 15 people died in various traffic accidents.

“I went from being a married father to having my whole life, my future and all my expectations ripped away from me in an instant,” said Atinsky, who currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his parents.

He is planning to return to Israel in May for two months, to speak out publicly for road safety awareness.

Atinsky, who had been living with his family in Atlanta for the past year while his wife pursued post-doctorate studies there, told the Post that the problem “on the most basic level is that the people in Israel have no respect for the laws of the road.”

“People breaking the laws on the roads are the rule and not the exception,” he said. “I see people parking on the opposite side of the street facing the oncoming traffic all the time, and I have never ever seen anyone given a ticket for it.

“The government of Israel has to take this matter seriously, in a way they have not done so up until now,” continued Atinsky, who hopes to meet with government and police officials when he returns here next month.

“All this talk [by NGOs] about better education for drivers will work in the long term but will not address this issue right now.”

Atinsky compared the situation to the US, where police enforcement on the roads is witnessed daily by most drivers.

“People [in Israel] have no respect for the police,” he said.

“In the US, if a policeman stops beside you, you must stay inside the car with your hands on the steering wheel. If a policeman stops you in Israel, most people get out of the car to argue with the officer about why he has been stopped. There is just no respect for authority. In the US if you talk back to a policeman, then you could be arrested.”

As for the crash that wiped out his family, Atinsky said that the police have not been very forthcoming with information about the other driver or what actually caused the horrific accident, that involved four vehicles. Media reports at the time indicated that the driver had tried to pass illegally.

“He was working for the army – that we know,” said Atinsky, adding: “At first I was told that he [the driver] was doing a new maneuver, then I heard he was looking for a cellphone, and then that he fell asleep at the wheel. It all sounds like the army is trying to cover something up.”

“I believe he should go to jail for what he did. He murdered four people, but apparently I have no recourse to sue the military,” said Atinsky, who during his trip here will also visit his wife’s family for the first time since the accident.

“My father-in-law lost his daughter and his wife; he is in a deep depression. We are all suffering. I am in deep pain and I miss my family every day.”

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