Road accidents in Israel: chronic problems

Roads in Israel are tough.

Police and rescue forces investigate an explosive device which was attached to and blew up a car close to Or Yehuda. (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Police and rescue forces investigate an explosive device which was attached to and blew up a car close to Or Yehuda.
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Roads in Israel are tough. Numbers of fatalities have been high, partly due to aggressive conduct by impatient drivers, partly because of outdated infrastructure. Yet, with the ongoing improvement of the latter, some careful optimism can be noted regarding the future decrease of accidents and fatalities. Challenges, however, remain.
The last in-depth report about decade-long tendencies from the National Road Safety Authority showed that in 2017, 59,000 people were involved in road accidents, 323 of which were fatal. According to the report, the decade from 2007 to 2017 showed an 11% decrease in fatal accidents, a 31% decrease in light accidents, but only a slight increase of 8% in severe accidents.
In 2018, the number of fatal accidents dropped from 323 to 285. The encouraging trend is partly due to specific action taken by the Public Security Ministry, such as the implementation of technological means and furthering studies concerning passenger safety, like a safety belt campaign and campaigns for preventing cell phone distractions on roads, among others. As reported by TheMarker last November, in 2005 the ministry had set a target whereby the death toll would fall below 300 as early as 2015, a target that was met.
According to the Road Safety Authority Decade Report, buses are the most common type of transportation involved in severe accidents – 6.7 times higher than private cars – while severe accidents are 1.3 times more likely to take place on city roads than on intercity ones.
In terms of demographics, a third of those killed in accidents were Arabs. Considering that Arabs comprise 20% of the Israeli population, the death rate in road accidents was more than 50%. According to some of the data published for the year 2018, there was a decrease in the number of Arabs killed in accidents, from 116 to 95.
A third of the victims in 2017 were pedestrians, with the age group above 75 years old most susceptible to accidents. Some 42% of pedestrians killed in accidents in the last decade did not use the pedestrian crossing to cross the road.
The numbers of regular and electric bicycle accidents were the only ones to have increased in the past year. Regular bicycle accidents went up from 12 to 16, and electric ones from seven to 19. In addition, the police reported that 25,332 fines were issued to bicycle riders in 2018.
“The significant increase in these tools requires the addition of police officers,” said Or Yarok CEO Erez Kita. Both police forces and “local authority inspectors should be required to use the powers granted to them and assist the police in restoring order to sidewalks and roads,” he said.
Within OECD countries, Israel was among the 10 countries with the highest number of fatalities in road accidents relative to the number of vehicles: 10.8 accidents per 100,000 vehicles, the 2017 report stated. In contrast, the country has among the 10 lowest rates of fatalities in relation to its population: 4.1 fatal accidents per 100,000 people. According to the report, research findings have shown that as a country’s Human Development Index (HDI) increases, the chance of involvement in car accidents decreases. Israel ranks 19th in terms of HDI, showing similar indices to countries in close range.
Route 90 – Israel’s ‘Road of Death’

Route 90 is the longest road in Israel. It stretches for 479 kilometers, crossing the country from Kiryat Shmona in the North, through the Hula Valley, the Sea of Galilee, down the Dead Sea, the Arava, and until Eilat in the southernmost part of the country. The road has been considered dangerous for many years, due to its infrastructure and lack of overall maintenance. In the last decade alone, 120 people were killed and 4,000 were injured, 374 of them seriously, in 1,350 accidents.
Tragedies abound, such as the death of the Avitan family in October 2018, when both parents and their 10-month-old daughter died after their private car collided with a bus; the Attar family from Psagot also that month, when their vehicle collided with another, killing both parents and their six children. Two French girls aged four and seven, who had recently immigrated with their family, were killed this June after the family car collided with a second vehicle, leaving five Roads in Israel are tough. Numbers of fatalities have been high, partly due to aggressive conduct by impatient drivers, partly because of outdated infrastructure. Yet, with the ongoing improvement of the latter, some careful optimism can be noted regarding the future decrease of accidents and fatalities. Challenges, however, remain.
“Every road trip is like Russian roulette,” said Kita, Maariv reported. “Although it is clear to everyone that people will continue to be killed on the road, no action has been taken for the safety of users.”
The vast majority of accidents recorded on Route 90 are frontal collisions. According to Or Yarok, the road – which was paved 50 years ago – contains just one lane in each direction and no separation barrier between the lanes for preventing such frontal accidents. Netivei Israel, the company responsible for maintaining Route 90, has renovated sections of the road, such as a 53-km. segment from Eilat to Yotvata, an 11-km. segment up to the Ketura junction and further plans of upgrades, which are estimated at NIS 2.1 billion. The sum is only part of the cost from the National Insurance Institute for covering casualties which, according to an analysis by Or Yarok based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, totals up to NIS 3.36 billion.
“In many portions of it, we are talking about a road that is not forgiving to drivers' mistakes,” Or Yarok said, as reported previously in The Jerusalem Post. “One lane in each direction with no hard separation between the lanes to prevent head-on accidents of the type we have seen in recent days; the entries and exits to settlements are unorganized; the hard shoulders are narrow or don't exist at all; the road is dark and winding, and has a mix of many vehicles like trucks, agricultural vehicles, private and commercial cars, buses and two-wheelers. The mix of different vehicles traveling at different speeds on the road with an infrastructure that is not forgiving of mistakes can lead to difficult results.”