Police: Israel has one of highest pedestrian death rates in the world
34% of those killed in 2007 were pedestrians compared with 15-17% in Europe.
By YAAKOV LAPPIN, SHELLY PAZ
Israel suffers from one of the world's highest rates of pedestrian fatalities from road accidents, Traffic Police Chief Cmdr. Avi Ben-Hamo told the Sderot Conference on Society on Wednesday.
In 2007, 433 people were killed in traffic accidents, Ben-Hamo said.
Of those, 34 percent were pedestrians, placing Israel high up in the international rankings of pedestrian fatalities.
"The average for Europe is 15%-17%," Dep.-Cmdr. Yossi Hatukai, head of research for the Traffic Police, told The Jerusalem Post. "Countries that approach our rates include Japan, which has a 31-32 % pedestrian casualty rate."
In Israel, 40% of pedestrians killed are aged 64 and over, while 20% of those killed are children up to age 15, Hatukai added.
Two-thirds of pedestrians are run down in urban areas, he added.
"We have very little safety awareness on the roads," Hatukai said, adding that Israel suffered from a poor driving culture which does not stress the importance of yielding to pedestrians.
A third of all serious accidents, where pedestrians are either injured or killed, take place at crosswalks, Hatukai said, adding that these incidents aren't always the drivers' fault.
"Pedestrian conduct is also largely to blame," he said. "Pedestrians think the crossings are their safe houses, that nothing can happen to them there. But the drivers don't really notice them. A situation in which a driver fails to yield and a pedestrian assumes the right of way is dangerous."
Outside of built-up areas, pedestrians acted recklessly, walking on the margins of and crossing high speed routes. Joggers, in particular, place themselves in dangerous situations.
Another factor contributing to the high pedestrian casualty rate is that Israel simply has more pedestrians than Europe, the US and Japan, Hatukai said.
Israel has a relatively low car-to-resident ratio of 310 cars for every 1,000 residents. In Europe, there are 600 vehicles for every 1,000 residents, while in the US there are 800.
The Transportation and Public Security ministries have launched public safety awareness campaigns aimed at getting pedestrians to be more wary of marching into crosswalks and assuming the right of way, and at getting drivers to be more aware of pedestrians, Hatukai said.
He added that if a Traffic Police patrol spots a pedestrian in a dangerous intercity area, the person will often be given a ride and dropped off at a bus stop or other safe zone. Pedestrians caught jaywalking or walking in areas banned to them could be ticketed.
At the Sderot Conference, MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), chairman of the War Against Road Accidents Caucus, told participants that since the state was established, some 30,000 people have been killed on the country's roads.
Forty percent of these victims are non-Jews, even though they make up some 20% in the general population.
Shmuel Abuav, director of the road safety group Or Yarok, said that Israeli society must change a situation in which weaker sectors of the population are the main victims of road accidents.
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