Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz announced on Tuesday that fewer traffic accidents in 2009 saved the Israeli economy a billion shekels.
Katz made the statement during an inauguration ceremony of an exhibit dedicated to road safety measures in the Ayalon Highways company offices in Tel Aviv.
"This year we saw a drastic drop in fatalities as a result of traffic accidents and I sincerely hope that this is a trend we will continue to experience in the future," said Katz. "From a values perspective, the battle against traffic accidents is the most important task that my ministry is charged with. I am personally responsible for ensuring that there are a minimum number of deaths on the roads and, together with the staff of the ministry and the accompanying bodies and agencies, we will continue to make it our priority to reduce the carnage on Israel's roads."
Standing before a display of sample safety barriers and traffic warning signs, Katz said that as the ministry continued to develop the nation's infrastructure of roads, special attention would be given to the high standards for safety measures.
"It is impossible to measure people's lives in shekels, but it is worthwhile to know that investment in safety also shows monetary returns. The reduction in deaths and injuries as a result of car accidents saved the country a billion shekels in 2009. Our foremost mission is to save lives, but it is also to save money. Funds invested in safety measures saves both," said Katz.
The exhibit, which will be on permanent display and open to the public, provides examples of the latest in road safety technology. New roadside rails made out of elastic metal composites and shock absorbing materials are stretched out across the yard. Examples of light reflectors and direction signs and even newly developed paints that enable drivers to view the markings on the roads better are all featured in the exhibit.
Salim Wahabi, the coordinator of the inter-ministerial committee for testing road safety equipment, explained that all of the safety features met European and American standards for safety and that Israel constantly updated its arsenal of road safety equipment.
"The philosophy behind what we do is to try and save lives. New and better equipment can mean the difference between life and death. Our aim is not to reduce accidents, we assume that human errors happen and will continue to happen, but we do what we can to help make sure that the accidents don't end in death," said Wahabi. "Once, concrete was the main material used for railings and barriers and when a car meets a concrete barrier at 100 km/h, nothing can withstand that. Today we use more 'forgiving' materials that cause less harm to both the cars and the drivers."
Yeshayahu Ronen, the committee's chairman explained that there was no single technology that could save drivers from having accidents, but that a mixture of better roads, better signals, better barriers and better maintenance could definitely help save lives.