Drive safely, or don't drive at all

As parents, we seek the best for our children and look out for their well-being. We feed, bathe and care for them. We educate, support and encourage them. Their life is our concern. We are the best parents a child can have, right? Not necessarily. How often are you talking on your cell phone while driving, putting your children's lives in danger? How often do you let your kids sit wherever they want in the car without buckling up? When was the last time you drove "just two minutes down the road" without making sure your kids were buckled? Yesterday? Last week? Think it doesn't make a difference? It does, and sometimes it's fatal. The Israel Police offer a wealth of information on their Web site ( - some of it in English. According to the site, the law requires that seat belts be worn, even in rear seats, in every car manufactured from 1987 onward. Also, in a separate section on traffic accidents, they say speed is a factor in almost every traffic accident. I'd claim further that buckling up is a saving factor, whether from injury or death, in almost every traffic accident. When a vehicle is in an accident, or if the driver brakes suddenly, a passenger in the rear seat not wearing a seat belt is likely to hit other objects or people in the vehicle, or even be thrown outside it, resulting in severe injury or death. Orna Klein of Metuna, an Israeli organization dedicated to road safety, told me that what contributes to accidents here is a lack of deterrence for speeders, minimal police presence on the roads and bad road conditions. Bad lane markings and poor signage also contribute. Driver negligence is, however, the main factor. This includes drivers who talk on their cell phones, shave or apply makeup, thus dividing their attention between their in-auto activity I've seen drivers who simply forget they are driving, forgetting to brake or accelerate, unmindful of the fact that they are behind the wheel of a 1,600-kg machine barreling down the road with only half a brain directing it. WITH ALL these problems I would think it would occur to people to do their utmost to safeguard their lives and the lives of their children by taking extra precautions when driving. Too many children die each year in road accidents and too many are injured. Too many lose one or both their parents. Can any sane person claim it doesn't matter to drive unbuckled? In traffic there's no trial and error. Either drive safely and properly, or don't drive at all. Your callousness can cost lives, including your own. The Post recently reported that VAT on new cars was being reduced in order to encourage the sale of such cars, which are noted to be safer; that would presumably lead to safer roads. Much as I welcome this belated decision I'm not completely convinced that cheaper cars will solve anything other than minimizing pollution from old cars. While this is great, simultaneously people will be encouraged to drive faster in their new cars, resulting in higher fatalities. In July 2005 a committee led by Dr. Yaakov Sheinin presented a multi-year road safety plan to Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit. The 64-page plan highlights the problems we face with annual road fatalities and explores logical ways to reduce road carnage. It offers a series of recommendations, including making traffic safety a government responsibility, creating better public awareness, promoting vehicle safety, increasing the police presence on the roads and devising better legislation and punishment. Now let's see it happen. Meanwhile, if you see irresponsible parents in a car with kids unbuckled, roll down your window and point that out to them. It doesn't cost anything to say something. I get satisfaction out of knowing that I've taught my two-year-old daughter something valuable that saves life when I get in the car and she says, "Daddy! Buckle in!" The writer works at the Jpost Web site.