I call on Minister of Transportation Yisrael Katz to cancel his decision to raise
speed limits to 110 kph (with an enforcement threshold of 120 kph).
decision will 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. If Katz persists, the government should fire him for what I
call administrative carnage.
Unlike the deaths from the Carmel fire,
which resulted from long-term negligence and many errors of wanton omission, the
deaths resulting from Katz’s decision will result from a willful error of
commission. I call on the State Comptroller’s Office and Ministry of Justice to
determine if this decision was criminally negligent; it is certainly reckless,
shocking and dangerous.
Many senior experts in trauma, injury prevention
and public health have joined me in this call to cancel the raised speed limit:
Prof. Avi Rivkind, chief of surgery; Prof. Charles Milgrom, chief of
orthopedics; and Dr. Uzi Zohar, a surgeon, of Hadassah-University Medical
Center; Dr. Ya’acov Adler, former deputy surgeon-general of the IDF and a past
chief of the Shaare Zedek emergency room; Prof. Gerald Ben- David and Zvi
Weinberger, the physicists who pioneered the introduction of speed cameras in
Israel; Prof. Ted Tulchinsky, formerly directorgeneral of preventive services in
the Ministry of Health; Dr. Amnon Lahad, head of family medicine and former head
of Community Preventive Health Services of the Ministry of Health;
Yael Stein, a colleague in occupational medicine at Hebrew
Elliot Berry and Charles Greenblatt, two former
directors of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine; and Dr. Henry
Hashkes, a family doctor just designated as a Yakir Yerushalayim.
this list Yehuda Meshi-Zahav of Zaka, the man who has to confront the carnage
TO DATE, Katz has ignored the requests of The Jerusalem Post’s
transportation reporter Ron Friedman and I to produce the report allegedly
endorsed by 30 experts that would raise the speed limit.
appears to be based on a set of arguments recycled from 1992- 1993, when
so-called experts wrongly predicted that a rise in speed limits would not
increase road deaths. Research by my colleagues and I at Hebrew University has
shown that the higher speed limits 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.
A 10 percent increase in speeds of impact results in a 45% rise in fatalities
among passengers and pedestrians. Raised speed limits induce even higher speeds,
and produce speed addiction and speed spillover to other roads. The raised
limits will cancel the benefits of speed cameras in reducing deaths.
seems indifferent to the fact that since he has become transportation minister,
road deaths have increased by 10% or more, after a large drop in 2009 to 354
from 455 in 2008. After the speed limit was raised in 1993, one of its
professional lobbyists was arrested for driving at 140 kph. Just now, another
lobbyist for higher speeds, Dr. Moshe Becker, was caught doing 170
These speed addicts are among the intellectual fathers of the
decision to play with the lives of our citizens.
And the dangers will
only increase if the minimum age for a driver’s license is lowered to
TO MAKE matters worse, Katz and other ministers appear to have put
the brakes on the single most important step to protect the public from road
carnage: a national network of speed cameras. Katz has scaled back an initial
program to introduce 60 cameras to allow for a mere 20.
During the 1990s
there were reductions of some 45 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. The fig leaf for Katz’s decision
to downsize the national speed camera network is a poorly defined campaign to
“enforce” prevention of a list of vaguely defined high-risk behaviors including
everything except speed.
I compare this approach to a campaign that would
prevent lung cancer by teaching people how to smoke safely.
We can make
some educated guesses concerning the motives behind Katz‘s decision to accept
more road carnage.
Here, as elsewhere, road builders, car importers and
gasoline companies are alarmed by the ever-increasing popularity of faster
public transportation between cities. As in Italy, where Fiat lobbied for higher
speed limits on the freeway to compete with the high speeds of the Eurostar fast
trains, so it is here, where a similar set of interests promote more speed and
more roads – what I call Asphalt Zionism.
The result is a
cash-for-carnage scenario. The late Simon Woolf, a toxicologist, once wrote that
the arguments transportation experts advance for more roads and higher speeds
are examples of the “lying, thieving, cheating and fraud” that corrupt so much
of what is called science.
But let’s get back to the personal
responsibility of Katz, and that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who also
happens to be health minister.
Imagine a hospital doctor deciding to
prescribe a medicine which he believes will make patients feel better. But the
same medication, when previously used in the hospital, killed
Furthermore, the same medication killed many patients in every
other hospital in which it was used. In the medical world, this doctor would be
prosecuted for medical negligence and sent to jail.
A government’s first
responsibility is to protect the life and safety of its citizens. It is now
considered a norm of transportation policy to aim for large reductions in the
absolute number of those killed and paralyzed on our roads.
achieve this, and produce large, immediate and costeffective solutions. Vision
Zero – no road deaths – is an achievable goal. But Katz has already declared
that his policies are no longer guided by the goal of reducing road deaths and
What is shocking about this statement is the fact that no one
is shocked by it.
I propose that the prime minister cancel Katz’s
wantonly negligent decisions and immediately restore the budget for many more
Netanyahu bears direct personal responsibility for the
consequences of Katz’s exercise in administrative carnage.The writer was
formerly head of the Injury Prevention Center at Hebrew University- Hadassah
School of Public Health and Community Medicine.