Day dedicated to preventing distracted driving; Transportation minister calls on public to take active role in preventing traffic accidents.
By RON FRIEDMANIn a special Knesset gathering Monday to mark National Road Safety Awareness Day, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz called on the public to take an active role in preventing traffic accidents.He said that the government was doing, and would continue to do, everything it could to provide the best possible infrastructure and law enforcement, but that many accidents were caused by negligent driving and could only be fixed by enlisting families and society in the battle.RELATED:‘The race to prevent the next road accident begins now’This year’s awareness day focused on the problem of distracted driving, with an emphasis on talking on cellphones or even sending text messages while driving. Katz said that a recent report by former Traffic Court judge Avital Chen had found that distracted driving caused 80 percent of all traffic accidents.“I’m not sure that it is less dangerous to talk on the phone while driving than to drive under the influence of alcohol,” said Katz.Studies conducted by the National Road Safety Authority have found that talking on the phone while driving quadruples the chances of being involved in an accident.According to the study, driving while talking on the phone increases drivers’ reaction time, reduces drivers’ ability to identify objects in time, increases the number of lane swerves and reduces the ability to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.AdvertisementSending and receiving text messages while driving is even more dangerous, with studies revealing that while writing a text message, drivers avert their eyes from the road 40 percent of the time and that it increases lane swerves by 28%.The study also found that hands-free devices do little to reduce the risks, because one’s driving is impaired by the act of talking and not by holding the phone. The study said that hands-free devices might even increase the risk of accidents because they provide a false sense of security.Israelis seem to be unconcerned by the dangers of talking on the phone while driving. A recent survey conducted by the Geocartography research institute for the National Road Safety Authority found that only 30% of the public believe that it is dangerous or very dangerous to drive while talking on the phone.However, 40% of respondents stated that they would support a law that completely forbade talking on the phone while driving.Half of the drivers in the survey indicated that the majority of the conversations they held while driving were of a personal or social nature, while a third reported that a majority of the conversations were work-related.One out of 10 respondents said they had sent a text message while driving in the week prior to the survey, and 13% said they checked messages they received while driving.Nearly 10% of the drivers who use electronic navigation systems said they always, or often, input information into the system while driving, and 28% said they occasionally or seldom did so, even though three-quarters of the respondents said they realized the danger in doing this.The National Road Safety Authority recommended a series of actions that could be taken by the government and the public to reduce distractions while driving.Though the most obvious solution is passing a law that would forbid the use of mobile phones and navigation systems while driving, other solutions suggested by the authority included things like public and private company regulations forbidding the use of devices while driving; increased education on the dangers; financial incentives to avoid the use of devices while driving through differential insurance premiums and the installation of technology that blocks the use of phones while vehicles are in motion.As part of the battle against distracted driving the authority has launched a television and radio campaign warning drivers of the danger, prepared lesson plans to teach about the danger in schools, is cooperating with the IDF, Magen David Adom and rescue forces on increasing awareness to the problem and an ad campaign on 1,000 buses nationwide.
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