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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite almost daily gruesome reminders on the pages of the country's newspapers and countless warnings broadcast on television, radio and in the print media, Israelis continue to drive recklessly, endangering not only their own lives but the lives of their passengers, fellow drivers and pedestrians as well. The editorial pages of this newspaper have called for greater vigilance and efforts to be made by the Transportation Ministry in allocating funds for the purchase of more traffic cameras across the nation's highways - an expensive but proven method of reducing traffic accidents caused by speed.
The government - sadly, and despite having to cope with a yearly traffic-accident death toll of more than 400 - has not effectively responded, leaving it up to the private sector and organizations to carry the burden. A number of local companies are working on innovative solutions to this deadly problem.
EARLIER THIS month, Beit Dagan-based GreenRoad Technologies announced that Or Yarok, Israel's largest road-safety organization, is making GreenRoad's Safety Center available to 5,000 families with teenage drivers. This follows Or Yarok's two-year study of 400 drivers' use of Safety Center to determine its long-term impact on safety.
By analyzing each young driver's performance and continuously providing them with real-time coaching, GreenRoad Safety Center improves driver safety. Driver safety levels are displayed using a color-classification system: green indicates safe driving, amber needs attention and red is high risk. Feedback is available for both teens and their parents in real time in their vehicle, and later via SMS, summary e-mails and Safety Center's password-protected Web site.
Or Yarok's objective is to meet every teen driver and their parents face-to-face to discuss the risks of driving. Over the last few years, Or Yarok's safety advisors have met with 130,000 teenage drivers in their homes.
For this new initiative, Or Yarok is targeting 5,000 families with teen drivers to install Safety Center in their cars. It is reaching potential program participants through radio advertising as well as through the 200 personal meetings it holds with families each day.
GreenRoad will work with Or Yarok and families to help and support each driver and maximize the safety of each project participant. Improving drivers will receive encouragement and support from Or Yarok.
ANOTHER LOCAL company that focuses on reducing traffic accidents is Jerusalem-based Mobileye Inc., a global pioneer and leader in computer vision-based driver-assistance systems. It announced earlier this month that is was selected by C.R. England, the UK's largest refrigerated-trucking company, to equip its fleet of more than 3,500 trucks with its innovative driving-assistance product AWS-4000. The camera-based safety features to be installed on each truck will include a lane-departure warning (LDW) system, a forward-collision warning (FCW) system, and a headway monitoring and warning (HMW) system.
The only driver-safety solution offering the three essential accident-prevention warnings in one unit, Mobileye AWS includes a smart camera located on the front windshield inside the vehicle and utilizes Mobileye's advanced vision technologies to detect and measure the distance to vehicles and to lane markings, providing the driver with timely alerts.
The forward-collision warning assists in preventing collisions with vehicles ahead by alerting drivers to both moving and stationary vehicles, while filtering cars in adjacent lanes posing no threat.
The lane-departure function monitors the vehicle position in the lane and alerts the driver to departures from a lane without using the appropriate turn signal.
Maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead is a task drivers tend to underestimate, resulting in accidents. Mobileye's headway-monitoring function calculates the distance from the vehicle ahead, providing the driver with both numerical and color headway data.
C.R. England will begin installing Mobileye's technology immediately and will equip the entire fleet over the coming months.
UNFORTUNATELY, no Israeli companies have yet to purchase Mobileye's technology.
But the speeding problem in this country is not only because drivers like to go fast - something that can be addressed by companies like GreenRoad and Mobileye. It stems in part from a psyche that pushes us to get more done in a shorter amount of time - an attitude that has pushed ahead the development of the country at a breakneck pace, yet one that leads to recklessness on the roads.
The only object that seems to slow us down and temporarily remove us from our normal patterns of behavior is when we stop to commemorate or to mourn.
Therefore, the Transportation Ministry ought to increasingly tap into the one thing that will force Israelis to slow down: remembering those who have been lost - something it has slowly started to do by airing radio and TV spots where family members recall relatives killed in car accidents.
There are a number of simple ways to do this, such as: erecting highway billboards, setting up roadside memorials or distributing bumper stickers with pictures of accident victims; or not removing from the side of the highway the shattered cars of an accident scene to serve as a poignant reminder of the dangers of speed.
Until this starts happening and the government begins to effectively reduce the number of fatalities on the country's roads, companies like GreenRoad and Mobileye, and organizations like Or Yarok, must increase their marketing activities to drive home the message that speed can kill.