(photo credit: Channel 10)
After a deadly weekend on the roads, police blamed "the human factor" as the cause of many of the serious crashes, while members of Or Yarok protested in Jerusalem for the government to strengthen its stance against car accidents.
Ch.-Supt. Ya'acov Cohen, the head of the Shefela Subdistrict's Traffic Division, revealed Sunday that the driver suspected of causing a crash last Wednesday in which six were killed had alcohol, cocaine and marijuana in his blood and urine. Yaron Bracha, 27, is still hospitalized in moderate condition.
Police have yet to inform him that they believe him to be responsible for the death of his twin brother as well as five bus drivers in the car that he allegedly struck when he plowed at high speed through a red light.
Dep.-Cmdr. Yossi Hatukai, head of data at the Israel Police's Traffic Division, said Sunday that the cause of many of the deadly crashes in recent days was what he labeled "the human factor." He placed the heaviest blame on irresponsible drivers, whom he labeled "murderers," and called for increased alertness and concentration when driving.
Late Saturday, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter called on Israel Police chief Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi to come up with an emergency plan to enforce traffic laws.
Dichter's announcement is the latest ministerial statement on the subject of traffic deaths, which is also a goal of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz's administration.
Mofaz introduced a plan to target "red roads," increasing police presence and improving infrastructure on 30 road segments pinpointed as Israel's most dangerous.
But police said that the plan is too new to determine whether or not Mofaz's plan has been successful. Traffic police claimed victory in 2006, after 446 people were killed on Israel's roads, approximately 50 fewer than the annual national average.
So far this year, including the 23 killed in the past week, 85 people have died in traffic accidents.
Hebrew University professor Elihu Richter says that neither red roads nor increased police visibility will drastically reduce traffic deaths. Instead, Richter argued, Israel must take measures to reduce speed on the roads, or in his words "to kill speed because speed kills."
"You can't argue with the brutal effects of Newtonian laws of energy," said Richter, explaining that a 10% rise in speed increases death tolls by 45%.
Richter advocates that the Israel Police must immediately do away with the 20 kph "grace speed" allowed above posted limits, encourage mass transit, and hurry the bidding process for the national speed camera network.
"The problem is not bad people but bad policy. What happens is that speed camera networks become a system whose rate of detection is so high that it deters," said Richter.
The proposed system will automatically generate traffic fines for each speeding infraction via a computerized network. Bidding on the project was supposed to have begun in October, but the government has not yet opened the contract on the project.
"Each month's delay in implementing the national speed network costs eight lives per week and many injured," Richter said, adding that similar programs in the UK, France and Australia have led to a sustained 40% to 50% drop in the road death toll.
The World Health Organization has said that it believes that by 2020 traffic-related injuries will be the No. 2 cause of death in the world, behind heart disease.