Stop the carnage!

An open letter to Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz.

By ELIHU D. RICHTER
March 12, 2007 23:02
2 minute read.
Stop the carnage!

lod crash 298.88. (photo credit: Courtesy of Hatzala)

 
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Three measures - one immediate, the other requiring more time, and the third more long-term - are needed to stop, and then reverse, the surge in the death toll on our roads.

  • The first aims to kill speed because speed kills. This immediate measure seeks to enforce the posted speed limit and not the 20-kph "grace" above it on all our roads, including the Trans-Israel Highway. What we are now seeing in many of the recent crashes are crashes at both high speeds and inappropriate speeds. and speed spillover to connecting roads from the highway. We have a new report coming out confirming the effects of raised speed limits in Israel, showing that since 1993 the annual toll from raised speed limits and spillover is of the order of 60 lives per year, or, cumulatively, more than a 1,000 deaths. This toll is equal to that from the second intifada. There is no question that the decision to add the 20-kph grace gap added many more deaths. Whatever the attributed cause of individual crashes, the risks of death increase as a function of the fourth power of the increase in speeds. The officer who made the decision to add this grace interval - in essence, telling the public to break the law - and to announce it bears personal responsibility for the results.
  • The second measure is to expedite the vendor bidding process for a national speed-camera network in both our inter-urban and city roads. The delays associated with various exercises by the Transportation Ministry to attach this tender to other bills for infrastructure are costing lives. Camera networks reduce speeding at intersections and red lights and pedestrian crossings - a finding we discovered ourselves 10 years ago in Netanya in the pilot speed camera project run by Prof. Gerald Ben-David. There is no excuse for not using the speed cameras on the Trans-Israel Highway for enforcement of speeds between two points. Each month's delay in implementing the national speed network costs over four lives a week, and many injured.
  • The third measure is to stop building more roads and invest heavily in mass transit - which is a far safer way of moving people. Had Israel introduced a national speed camera network in 1990 (and not raised speed limits), along with the UK, we would have saved 3,344 of the 5,900 deaths since 1993. Had Israel introduced such a network in 2000, along with France, we would have saved 656 lives. Once the network is installed, Israel can then move forward to attack the other causes of death and injury on our roads. Both your ministries bear accountability for the delay in implementing the above recommendations. Israel's failure to reduce its road death toll substantially is not only a tragedy. It bears all the earmarks of a failed state. The writer, a physician, is professor emeritus of occupational and environmental medicine at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Hadassah School of Public Health and a consultant to Metuna.

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