'Dangerous roadways in Israel are worse than any security threat'

For the past three years, roadway fatalities have steadily risen and now the Knesset is looking to stop the trend.

Scene of car accident in Jerusalem, April 15 , 2015 (photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Scene of car accident in Jerusalem, April 15 , 2015
The timing of a special session of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday to discuss the trend of increasing road fatalities couldn’t have been more apt, coming just hours after an accident in the South killed four the previous night.
“The danger facing Israeli citizens on the roadways is worse than any security threat. Every part of the road is a war zone,” said committee head MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Union), who is also a member of the Subcommittee for Road Safety.
Four people were killed in a head-on collision Tuesday night between two vehicles on Highway 31 between Hura and Shokat, including three members of the same family, Hura residents Ayoub Abu Kian, 23, Ihab Abu Kian, 24, and Ha’il Abu Kian, 20.
In 2005, as part of a multiyear road safety plan, the government had set a goal of reducing road fatalities to below 300 by 2015 and 200 by 2020.
The first goal was not met, however, as 355 people were killed on Israel’s roads in 2015, including eight women who died in a major crash last February on the same Highway 31.
Although the number of road fatalities declined 47 percent from 2002 to 2012, they then began a steady increase from 292 in 2012 to 308 in 2013, 309 in 2014 and 355 in 2015.
Also impacting was a change in 2003, when the statistics stopped including people who died more than 30 days after their crash.
Wednesday’s committee meeting, which included members of non-governmental organizations and road safety experts, began a series of sessions seeking to find a solution to the problem.
“Do you think our security bodies would be able to accept a plan where they knew from the start that 355 people would be killed?” Cabel asked the committee, adding that not a single system is in place to effectively deal with the issues and emphasizing that solving the problem was not a matter political differences.
Cabel pointed out that while terrorist attacks grab the headlines, traffic fatalities are hardly given a mention, noting that the 46-victim increase from 2014 to 2015 is more than the 31 victims of the recent wave of terrorist attacks in the country over the past few months.
Shmuel Aboav, the CEO of traffic safety organization Or Yarok, told the committee that 90 people were killed at intersections and parts of roads that were already known to be dangerous in 2015.
He also pointed out that the government has failed to allocate the annual NIS 400 million it promised in 2005, saying that, instead, NIS 200m. has been received each year which limits the number of improvements that can be made to these dangerous sections of roads.
The solution, Aboav said, lies not only in improved roads but in more police patrols and the installation of 300 traffic and red- light cameras on 700 kilometer of roadways across the country, as well.
Aboav estimated that an additional NIS 32m. into improving the roadways could save 100 lives.
Or Yarok’s policy department head, Yaniv Jacob told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday that 113 police cars currently patrol the roads but that an additional 200 are needed for enforcement to be adequate.
“When you drive, you can see it for yourself,” he said. “You don’t see police.”
Though the causes behind Tuesday’s crash are still being investigated, Jacob said he heard that the deaths were caused by a combination of speeding and a lack of seatbelt use.
“If police were patrolling this road, the drivers probably wouldn’t speed and would wear seatbelts,” Jacob said. “Maybe it would not prevent accidents [from happening], but it would save lives.”
Ben Hartman contributed to this report.