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Luck prevailed during rush hour on Tuesday evening, when dozens of people escaped injury and death after a train slammed into a truck whose driver apparently burst through the gate at a railroad crossing, ignoring flashing red warning lights.
None of the passengers on the double-decker train heading from Kiryat Haim to Haifa were injured in the collision, which occurred near the Air Force's technological academy. The driver of the truck was treated on the scene for shock, and was described as "very lightly injured" by attending medical teams.
According to initial evidence, the truck's driver ignored flashing red warning lights and burst through the lowered gate on the railroad crossing before being broadsided by the train.
Traffic was stopped in both directions as crash investigators combed the scene for clues at the junction that was the site of a similar collision that occurred one month ago.
But Tuesday's collision was also reminiscent of a much more serious - and eerily similar - incident that occurred kilometers to the south at pastoral Beit Yehoshua Junction, near netanya. In June, five people were killed and over 90 injured when a train derailed after colliding with a truck that had crossed the warning barrier.
Following that crash, Israel Railways has implemented a number of measures designed to prevent such accidents.
Road-level train crossings have become a thorn in the side of the growing railway company. Following the train crash at Habonim in 1985 in which 21 people, mostly school children, were killed, the government established an interministerial steering committee to deal with the problem of road level railway crossings. In the 18 years of its existence, it made no changes in the preexisting safety regulations for the crossings.
In 1999, the Transportation Ministry established a committee to recommend improvements in road level train crossings. The committee submitted its recommendations in July 2002. But policing of the crossings was not increased, and no system was installed to warn drivers when a crossing was blocked, reported State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss in July.
Israel Railways said in response to the state comptroller's criticism that since the beginning of the 2006, there was complete documentation of the information regarding all road level railway crossings and how the company dealt with each one of them.
Still, officials have emphasized that there is little that can be done at road-level crossings when motorists disregard warnings and even break through security gates. Following the Beit Yehoshua crash, MK Gilad Erdan proposed a bill enforcing mandatory jail time for drivers caught crossing train tracks illegally, characterizing the bill as an attempt to 'red-flag this dangerous violation, which can lead to many people being injured or even killed.'
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