Mofaz: Hands tied on traffic safety by bureaucracy

Transportation minister says he hasn't been given required authority to fulfill his responsibility.

crash french hill 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
crash french hill 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
The national road safety organization Or Yarok celebrated its 10th anniversary on Thursday with a long line of prominent speakers, including Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, MK Gilad Erdan and Cherie Booth, the wife of Quartet Envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair. During the gathering, Mofaz lashed out against the current system. "We have an exceptional level of bureaucracy," said the former IDF chief of staff, complaining that all too often, his hands were tied in executing policy by layers of bureaucratic procedure and poor interministerial communication. "The central problem here is not the budget, it is in our ability to promote specific topics in the government," he added. "I feel that in this current position, I have been given massive levels of responsibility for the lives of Israeli citizens, but that I have not been given the necessary authority to carry out that responsibility." Mofaz gave as an example the lack of progress his ministry had made with the Education Ministry in adding a road safety exam to the list of mandatory high school matriculation exams. Mofaz also offered a laundry list of specific changes he hoped to see, that would impact the level of road safety in the next five years. He emphasized the need to adopt what he termed a "metropolitan mindset" and, in parallel, the need to establish a national authority that would provide oversight and coordination for public transportation throughout the country. In the coming year, Mofaz said, he hoped to see a new policy through which the licenses of recidivistic traffic offenders would be revoked after drivers reached a certain number of "points." In such circumstances, Mofaz said, the repeat offenders would be required to repeat both their written and on-road driving tests in order to receive their license again. Mofaz also said that he would like to see drivers mandated to take refresher courses prior to their licenses being renewed every 10 years. Finally, Mofaz appealed to the courts, calling on them to deliver harsh sentences to deter dangerous drivers. "I turn to all of the judges of Israel. Please do not be gentle with dangerous drivers. They are potential murderers," he said. Dichter also challenged the Israeli public - and government - to take a tougher stand on vehicle collisions. "Israel must ask itself why the number of dead and injured in road accidents was not further reduced in 2007," he said. Dichter cited data indicating that 427 people had been killed in vehicle collisions on Israel's roadways since the beginning of the year, 30 fewer than in 2006. In addition, 5,000 fewer people were injured than the year before - of whom 300 fewer people were injured seriously.