A winding road: The roundabout, manipulative nature of political discourse..
(photo credit: AMIT BAR-YOSEF)
On Wednesday, the maximum speed limit on Highway 6 will be raised to 120 kph from 110 kph. Already, police really don’t begin enforcing speed violations until cars reach speeds of 130 kph or more. After the change, enforcement probably won’t begin until cars start reaching 140 kph.
What could have motivated Transportation Minister Israel Katz, the man responsible for the speed limit hike, to do such a thing? The decision will almost certainly result in more dead, maimed, paralyzed and disabled drivers, passengers and pedestrians of all ages. Based on past experience, there will be more victims of blunt and penetrating trauma, skull and brain injuries and more dead kids.
The Israeli case provides indisputable evidence for the direct correlation between an increase in the speed limit and road fatalities.
Over the past few years, there has been a gradual increase in the number of road deaths in Israel. Until 2011, the number of men, women and children killed on the roads was steadily dropping. But, starting in 2012, the trend reversed course. That year, 290 people were killed on the road; in 2013, 309 died; and, in 2014, 320.
According to Or Yarok, a road safety organization, as of November 22, 323 people had died on the roads this year. At this rate, the number will reach more than 353 in 2015. We are slowly approaching the level of road deaths of a decade ago, which hovered around 400 a year, on average.
For the sake of comparison, between September 13 and November 30 – a period of a month-and-a-half roughly covering the recent wave of Palestinian terrorism – 22 people have been murdered in stabbings, vehicular attacks, shootings and other terrorist violence, according to Magen David Adom.
Assuming the present rate, about 45 people are killed on the road in a month- and-a-half – or about twice as many as those murdered in the terrorist attacks.
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What happened? In November 2011, Katz decided to raise the maximum speed limit from 100 kph to 110 kph. Shortly after this decision, death tolls started climbing.
Now, instead of learning from his mistake, Katz is actually continuing with this homicidal policy.
If we dedicated even a fraction of the emotional involvement and media coverage to the bloodshed on our roads that we do to terrorist attacks, we would be well on our way to reducing unnecessary road deaths to a minimum.
The Transportation Ministry says the increase in the speed limit from 100 kph to 110 kph did not result in more fatalities on the roads on which the speed limit change was made. In fact, says the ministry, the number of road injuries and deaths actually fell on certain sections of the roads. The ministry also said that the upcoming change on Route 6 was made possible after road safety improvements were implemented.
However, research by Prof. Elihu Richter formerly head of the Injury Prevention Center at Hebrew University- Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine and others at Hebrew University, shows that the higher speed limits have resulted in an additional 40 to 60 deaths per year.
The move to raise speed levels even more carries the almost certain risk of similar results.
Everywhere, speed kills and more speed kills more.
During the 1990s, there were reductions of some 45 percent to 50% in death tolls in the UK, the state of Victoria in Australia and in France; these countries applied the axiom that because speed kills, they have to kill speed.
A 10% increase in speeds of impact results in a 45% climb in fatalities among passengers and pedestrians, according to Richter. Raised speed limits induce even higher actual speeds, and produce speed addiction and speed spillover to other roads governed by lower speed limits.
But if the correlation between speed limits and road deaths is so clear, why is it that the Transportation Ministry and the man who heads it fail to see it? What special interests are being served by raising the speed limit? Who wants Katz to put his foot on the gas? Katz has a duty first and foremost to Israeli citizens.
Keeping speed limits low saves lives. Raising them will result in more bloodshed on the roads. It’s Katz’s choice.
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