Meet our Israeli drivers

They don't signal, they cut across lanes, talk on cell phones, shave, even tweeze their eyebrows.

By NINA ZELDIS
January 23, 2007 21:34
2 minute read.
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Amit, my son-in-law, my US National Merit Scholar who understood that he would have to enlist in the IDF if he wanted to marry my daughter, did so as he does most everything - graciously and with elan. But a few weeks back, taking my seven-year-old grandson to school on his bicycle, Amit was ungraciously knocked to the ground. He and my grandson were struck by a female driver who failed to respect their right of way on a pedestrian walkway in mid-town Ra'anana. When she finally halted her car - with Amit, my grandson and the bike sprawled on the pavement - she exited and said she was "sorry," "didn't see them," and "I wasn't paying attention." "You'll go to jail!" Amit, in severe pain, yelled uncharacteristically. "But I told you I was sorry," the woman intoned. So far, my grandson is all right physically. But he's had nightmares, and stopped eating during the week Amit spent in the hospital. Amit suffered a tibial-plateau fracture and underwent a four-and-a-half hour surgery, following which his leg was casted from thigh to ankle with what must feel like the weight of the world. When that driver struck Amit, she did not just smash his leg; she traumatized my grandson and burdened my daughter, who works full-time, with the dozens of everyday chores wives take it for granted their husbands will do - not to mention walking the dog. She has also been saddled with running after Form 250 and Form 17, filling out endless paperwork, etc. The driver, if indeed she has any feelings at all, has yet to phone to enquire about the well-being of her victims. She simply turned the technical information relevant to the accident over to her insurance company, which will hopefully make the appropriate moves. Where are her pain, suffering and disruption of life? DRIVING IN Israel is harrowing. Drivers do not signal. They cut erratically across lanes, speak on their cell-phones, shave, and even tweeze their eyebrows as they speed along. They do not purposely hit anyone or expect to be hit, but they do cause accidents by pretending that driving is an automatic act requiring little or no attention. "Is it so difficult to signal?" I shouted at the driver on my left who had just cut in front of me from the right. "Yes," he shouted back, almost with relish, "it's too difficult." On occasion, I've asked driving instructors why they're on their cell phones while their student-driver pulls out into traffic with no signal at all, or cuts left while signaling right. "Lady, this isn't America!" comes the reply - or some similar non sequitur. Until reckless drivers who cause accidents and inflict injuries are arrested on the scene; until driving instructors are penalized for poor teaching, and until there is a real traffic police force in operation nationwide, Amit's and my grandson's bitter experience will be repeated again and again - with consequences even more dire. Many a young father will become spinal-cord injured, suffer head-trauma or lose his life because of a system that does not check its teachers or drivers, and fails to appropriately punish offenders. However well-intentioned those public messages showing mangled cars may be, they do not speak to anyone. Fines and prison may. Forty-one years ago, when my American driving instructor handed me the key to his car for my first lesson, he warned: "A car is a lethal weapon. Never forget it." The writer is a specialist in physical medicine and rehab.

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