The scene of a traffic accident on Road 31 near Arad.
(photo credit: MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
Arab Israeli children are much more likely to die in accidents than Jewish Israeli children.
That was the conclusion of a report by Beterem – The National Center for Child Safety and Health, which was presented to the Joint List on Monday.
Though Arabs under 18 years old make up 26 percent of their age cohort, they comprise 60% of the 115 Israeli children killed on average in accidents per year.
Particularly high rates of deaths and injuries were registered in Beduin villages in the South. A Beduin children is four times more likely to die in an accident than an Arab child in the rest of the country.
Accidents involving vehicles were the most common cause of death and injury. According to figures provided by the Or Yarok road safety organization, of the children aged 0-4 killed in road accidents, 87% were Arabs; 60% of children aged 5-14 were Arabs.
We have written in the past about the need to take measures to lower the high number of deaths and injuries involving vehicles. Many of the measures are also pertinent to other types of accidents, such as falls from rooftops.
Education plays a vital role.
A recent study, sponsored by Or Yarok and carried out by researchers from the University of Haifa, surveyed 723 Muslim and Christian youths about their views on issues associated with road safety. Large percentages revealed that they and their friends drive without licenses; speed; ignore traffic rules; and tend to have a cavalier attitude toward road safety in general.
For instance, a third of respondents said they do not use safety belts; half said they were recently in a car and said nothing when the driver sped; 40% said they drove inside their village without a driver’s license.
Educating Arab parents and youths about the dangers of traffic accidents and the importance of wearing seat belts, respecting speed limits and adhering to other traffic laws could lower the number of fatalities and injuries. The Education Ministry in conjunction with the Transportation Ministry should consider formulating a special program for Arab sector schools that is not just a translation of the program for Jewish state schools.
Similarly, the Arab sector should raise its awareness regarding other dangers. Children should not be left unattended; parents should be encouraged to provide safe areas where their children can play without undue risk of injury.
But education is only part of the answer.
In many Arab villages – particularly Beduin towns in the South – there is a lack of basic infrastructure. Roads are missing signposts, traffic lights and paint, and are often full of potholes.
Many Arab towns lack playgrounds where children can play safely. City planning is practically nonexistent and building codes that prevent access to roofs and other unprotected areas are not properly enforced.
Not only does this create confusion, it sends out a message to Arab drivers that the State of Israel’s jurisdiction does not extend to their villages. A general atmosphere of lawlessness pervades. Arab Israelis compare their communities to the far better-kept towns and cities in the rest of the country and internalize the feeling that they are second-class citizens.
Law enforcement inside Arab villages and towns must also be improved. Building codes and city planning that ensure safer living areas need to be implemented. Traffic rules need to be enforced as well. Drivers who know they will not be caught because there is little or no police presence are more likely to break traffic rules and thus endanger themselves and others. The same is true of contractors who do not adhere to building codes.
Political activism on the part of Arab MKs is an important factor in preventing accidents. The Joint List will be organizing a conference to discuss how to reduce accidents. But Arab lawmakers should put pressure on the government to take measures to improve education, infrastructure and law enforcement in the Arab sector.
The high number of Arab children killed in accidents reveals a glaring inequality that must be addressed.
Improved infrastructure and law enforcement, political activism and education should all be used to lower the shockingly high rate of fatalities resulting from accidents among Arab children.