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.
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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.”