The site of a car crash on Route 557 in the West Bank on January 24, 2018..
(photo credit: NATI SHAPIRA)
Due to the significant and increasing rate of traffic accidents in the West Bank, Palestinian security forces have begun to use advanced devices in an effort to prevent and curtail reckless driving. Through a campaign, “Be a Partner,” the Palestinian Police are equipped with radars and breathalyzers, provided by the Palestinian Authority (PA) as part of an unrevealed foreign donation.
Patrol cars are now able to immediately monitor the speed of Palestinian drivers and, when necessary, test the percentage of alcohol in the blood of traffic offenders.
The "Be a Partner" campaign commenced at the beginning of September and aims to spread awareness of road safety, prevent reckless driving, catch violations, and punish offenders.
Nearly 100 Palestinians have lost their lives from car accidents since the beginning of 2018, according to Abu Znied Abu Znied, General Manager of the Palestinian Traffic Police. In an interview with The Media Line, he explained that the number of driving accidents has increased by ten thousand compared to the previous year “because of non-compliance" on the behalf of drivers. As a result, the Palestinian Police decided to use all resources available to create a new culture of road safety. While the Palestinian Police previously and constantly issued traffic tickets, Abu Znied says, “This campaign is stricter.”
Radars and breathalyzers have been in use by the Palestinian Police but until September there weren't enough resources to also provide these devices in the West Bank. According to Abu Znied, as part of the "Be a Partner" campaign, they “received a new shipment of radars and breathalyzers, as well as cars and motorcycles," which will "assist the officers to do their job effectively.”
Previously, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem donated a new batch of American-made jeeps to the Police Department in Ramallah, as part of America’s “ongoing role to support the rule of law and civil defense programs in the West Bank.” This donation was made despite the diplomatic boycott that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas imposed on American officials. The boycott is part of the PA's efforts since last December to protest America's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which many Palestinians regard as “unfair” toward their cause.
When asked about the source of the foreign donation, the spokesperson of the Palestinian Security Forces refused to answer. However, he pointed out that the campaign is achieving its short-term goals and is in the process of achieving its long- term goals as well. “It’s only the first two weeks of the month, but we are witnessing results on the ground.” He adds, “At the end of this current month we will have a full report.” He further urged Palestinian citizens to follow traffic laws while driving, and stressed that speed, using mobile devices, as well as alcohol consumption result not only in car accidents, but also contribute to riots and other inconveniences. “Not only are the procedures increased, but the follow-up part too.”
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The Media Line took to the streets of Ramallah and asked about the new campaign.
Most citizens were happy with it. “It's a good move for the country,” Dina Rashid, a Palestinian citizen, told The Media line. She explained that Palestinians must learn how to respect the law and other drivers on the road. “There is no one above the law, even if riding an expensive car; our streets have to be organized.”
Another citizen, David, who asked that his last name not be used, commented on how Palestinians drive in the West Bank compared to how they drive on Israeli roads. “Palestinians don’t act the same way; the same driver who violates all laws in Palestine, respects them in Israel. It’s not about Israel itself, but how the Israeli Police implement the laws strictly.” He continued, “We deserve to have a safe environment where all citizens respect the law.”
Mickiey Rosenfeld, spokesperson for the Israeli Police, confirmed that new technology is constantly in use on Israeli roads to prevent road accidents and keep drivers safe. He adds, “When there are road accidents that take place with Palestinian vehicles involved, all steps are taken to treat those injured and investigate what took place at the scene.”
He stated that all laws implemented in different areas, including Area C, as referred to by the 1993 Oslo Accords as the designated where Israel has administrative and security control, are to ensure the safety of drivers, and that “it is vital for all the people using the roads in Judea and Samaria to maintain a high level awareness of the safety laws in the area.”
Anwar, who withheld his last name, expressed to The Media Line that he is only sorry that such a positive campaign wasn’t announced to the public before being implemented, suggesting that the public wasn't adequately informed before the new devices were in-use in the West Bank. “It would have been much better if they informed us rather than having us learn the expensive way.”
He affirms the importance of the campaign, but thinks that the public should have been made aware of these new procedures, to save citizens from paying fines. As stated in the Palestinian Police press release, the campaign that began in September will include activities and events to educate Palestinian citizens, with the goal of raising awareness of traffic laws and of the new security measures.
According to the press release, the Palestinian public is being informed of the new measures through local media, Palestinian Police social-media outlets, and voluntary, on-the- ground initiatives.
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