‘Only stronger law enforcement will save lives on the roads’

Father of family wiped out in traffic accident demands accountability.

bryan atinsky 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
bryan atinsky 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Only if drivers learn to fear arrest or penalty for even the smallestdriving infraction will the number of traffic-related deaths in Israelbe reduced, according to Bryan Atinsky, the American-born Israeli wholost his wife, Efrat, and two children, Noam, five, and Ya’ari, ninemonths, in a road accident last month in the South.
According to Atinsky – whose mother-in-law, Esther Gamliel, was alsokilled in the crash at the Negev Junction  – increasing laws orimproving roads will not change the current reality, and educatingschool children toward better driving habits is too long-term. Thematter needs to be dealt with immediately by increasing police patrols,stiffer fines, revoking licenses and even jail time.
“The fact of the matter is that we have rules and laws already inplace. So the question is not about creating new laws; the question iswhy in hell the police are not enforcing existing laws,” an emotionalAtinsky told The Jerusalem Post in an interviewMonday.
“Why is the budget so small? Why is the manpower so small? And why areresources not being put into tackling this when it is the No. 1 killerof Israelis?”
A spokesman for the Traffic Police responded that there are policepatrolling the roads every day of the year and the number of officershas been increased in recent years. Although he could not give exactdetails of the police’s budget for enforcing traffic laws, he did notethat figures from 2009 show a fall in the number of traffic accidentsover the previous year.
However, official figures from the National Road Safety Authorityindicate that 98 people have been killed on the roads thus far in 2010,compared to 83 people for the same period last year. The spokesmanexplained that more people have died but that overall there have beenfewer accidents.
In a recent study, however, non-profit road safety organization OrYarok found that more than 2,300 people have died on the roads since2003. During the week in March that Atinsky’s family was killed, anadditional 15 people died in various traffic accidents.
“I went from being a married father to having my whole life, my futureand all my expectations ripped away from me in an instant,” saidAtinsky, who currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his parents.
He is planning to return to Israel in May for two months, to speak out publicly for road safety awareness.
Atinsky, who had been living with his family in Atlanta for the pastyear while his wife pursued post-doctorate studies there, told thePost that the problem “on the most basic level isthat the people in Israel have no respect for the laws of the road.”
“People breaking the laws on the roads are the rule and not theexception,” he said. “I see people parking on the opposite side of thestreet facing the oncoming traffic all the time, and I have never everseen anyone given a ticket for it.
“The government of Israel has to take this matter seriously, in a waythey have not done so up until now,” continued Atinsky, who hopes tomeet with government and police officials when he returns here nextmonth.
“All this talk [by NGOs] about better education for drivers will workin the long term but will not address this issue right now.”
Atinsky compared the situation to the US, where police enforcement on the roads is witnessed daily by most drivers.
“People [in Israel] have no respect for the police,” he said.
“In the US, if a policeman stops beside you, you must stay inside thecar with your hands on the steering wheel. If a policeman stops you inIsrael, most people get out of the car to argue with the officer aboutwhy he has been stopped. There is just no respect for authority. In theUS if you talk back to a policeman, then you could be arrested.”
As for the crash that wiped out his family, Atinsky said that thepolice have not been very forthcoming with information about the otherdriver or what actually caused the horrific accident, that involvedfour vehicles. Media reports at the time indicated that the driver hadtried to pass illegally.
“He was working for the army – that we know,” said Atinsky, adding: “Atfirst I was told that he [the driver] was doing a new maneuver, then Iheard he was looking for a cellphone, and then that he fell asleep atthe wheel. It all sounds like the army is trying to cover something up.”
“I believe he should go to jail for what he did. He murdered fourpeople, but apparently I have no recourse to sue the military,” saidAtinsky, who during his trip here will also visit his wife’s family forthe first time since the accident.
“My father-in-law lost his daughter and his wife; he is in a deepdepression. We are all suffering. I am in deep pain and I miss myfamily every day.”