The capacity of Israeli drivers to forget the basic rules of driving in stormy winter conditions each year was proven yet again Tuesday, when weather-related crashes claimed the lives of two motorists and injured dozens.
As rain blanketed the country from north to south throughout the day, the collisions moved with the precipitation. The first major collision occurred north of Haifa in the morning and collisions gradually continued southward all the way to Ashdod by the evening.
Following a busy day for traffic police and rescue teams across the country, Northern District Traffic Police Commander Asst.-Cmdr. Yisrael Jibli told The Jerusalem Post that while the weather was a factor, it was the driving culture that was at fault.
"On a wet road the driving culture must be completely different. You absolutely must get used to driving slower on a wet road. Even if the road is empty, and you can drive quickly, you should still reduce speed. On a road where you are accustomed to travelling at 80km. per hour, you should now drive 60km. per hour," he said.
In Jibli's district alone two people were killed, four seriously injured and another 62 lightly injured in 23 collisions throughout the day.
One driver was killed and his wife seriously injured in a morning rush-hour collision near the Zebulun Junction at the entrance to Kiryat Ata.
The chain collision involving five vehicles began when the driver of a jeep failed to brake in time and slammed into a car. The driver of the car was killed immediately and it took the combined efforts of four fire department rescue squads to free the victim's wife sitting in the passenger seat.
Response to the crash was further complicated when rescuers discovered that the jeep had been pulling a trailer full of containers of natural gas for residential use. A leak was found in one of the containers and it was necessary for the fire department hazardous materials experts to prevent the leak from spreading and endangering rescuers and victims alike. The complex rescue and clean-up operations closed the road to traffic, confounding rush-hour motorists.
In addition to the husband and wife, Kiryat Ata residents in their forties, another four people were hospitalized for injuries sustained in the collision. Two of the victims were listed in moderate condition and two were in good condition.
Police said that initial investigation indicated that the collision, like most chain collisions was caused by a failure to keep an appropriate distance between vehicles traveling on a busy road. The situation was exacerbated, said Jibli, by the wet road surfaces that extended stopping distances.
Hours later in Hadera, Hushan Muhammad, 24, a resident of Kfar Minda was killed on Highway 2 in the northbound lanes when his vehicle ploughed into a truck that was stopped in a traffic jam in another lane.
Police said that according to their initial investigation, Muhammad, who was driving a passenger van, apparently failed to apply his brakes in time to prevent the collision. The traffic jam in which the truck was stopped was itself due to an earlier collision further down the road.
Six of the van's passengers were injured in the crash, five were listed in moderate condition and one in good condition.
In that collision as well, Jibli said, the wet road conditions "added to the situation." The lack of alertness on the part of the driver combined with the extended distance required on wet roads were both believed to be factors in the crash.
"There are many crashes and traffic jams when it rains and drivers must be aware and brake in time," Jibli explained, adding a plea for drivers to drive more cautiously during wet conditions.
"The road is even slipperier when it rains after a long period without rain because all the oils that were absorbed into the road float on top of the water on the roadways," he said.