Parties asked to address road safety

With just under a month remaining before the national election, Or Yarok (green light), a nonprofit association founded nine years ago to change Israel's driving culture, has opened a campaign aimed at placing road safety at the top of the next government's agenda. Or Yarok is asking every political party to sign a pact promising to making road safety a high priority. Spokesman Aharon Lapidot said, "What we want is [for] this issue to be one of the topics included in the future coalition agreement, during the negotiations for forming the next coalition." The initiative comes after new road safety legislation, based on the recommendations contained in the Sheinin Report, was dropped because of the early elections. The legislation had been approved by the cabinet and was already prepared for its second reading in the Knesset. "We want the parties to... renew the legislation of this law after the election. [The bill] implements the recommendations of the Sheinin Report. The main issue is the establishment of a new National Road Safety Authority... giving it some sort of independence through the budget," Lapidot said. "A budget allocated in advance, a [secure] and allocated budget that is firm, [and] cannot be moved for the next five years. The whole process is futile if we don't ensure proper budgeting," he said. The public sees road safety as a high priority, although Israeli driving conditions are slowly improving. A survey conducted by Or Yarok in 2005 found that almost 90 percent of survey participants, a higher proportion than in similar surveys in any European country, said road accidents were the most worrisome problem they confronted. With 475 traffic fatalities in 2005, much work remains to be done, despite the National Traffic Police reporting that the total number of accidents fell 5.4% in 2005. "As a community, we cannot afford to let this issue drop because of the elections. People are getting killed every day... there is no action taken to stop the problem. Even though there is an election, we cannot allow this to undermine the importance of traffic accidents," said Lapidot. With strong support in both the cabinet and in the Knesset, Lapidot said he was optimistic Or Yarok would be able to garner support from all the political parties. "Or Yarok sees the signatures of Israeli political leaders on this petition as the first step towards fulfilling the citizens of Israel's desire of making the National Road Safety Program a reality," said Avi Noar, chairman of Or Yarok.