Police launches yet another new program to curb wild drivers

Father, daughter, laid to rest; Truck driver had 195 moving violations.

car crash police 298.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
car crash police 298.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
Five months after the last "emergency plan" was drawn up following a weekend of particularly horrifying collisions on the nation's roads, Israel Police Traffic Division chief Cmdr. Avi Ben-Hemo called in his top officers on Sunday morning for an "emergency situation assessment" to draw up a plan to reduce road fatalities. Seven people were killed in weekend crashes. Heads of traffic police from all seven police districts, as well as representatives from national headquarters, were present at the meeting. Ben-Hemo announced that his division would work to increase police presence and visibility on inter-urban roadways. That plan includes increased patrols to augment officers' visible and undercover presence on major roadways, particularly on weekends and after dark. While calling on citizens to join the 4,000 people who volunteer with the traffic police, Ben-Hemo announced that the current volunteers would be asked to double the time they spend on the roads. In early March, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter demanded that then-police chief Moshe Karadi draw up an emergency plan to increase the enforcement of traffic laws, following a particularly deadly weekend. That initiative followed yet another - from Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz - that set out to reduce road deaths by targeting "red roads," increasing police presence and improving infrastructure on 30 road segments pinpointed as Israel's most dangerous. But on Saturday night, it was possible to drive the entire length of "red road" Route 65 between Afula and the Iron interchange without seeing a single police patrol car - even though that stretch of road has been identified as a critically dangerous area, especially on Saturday evenings as vacationers return from the North. It was the same evening that two members of the Suleimani family were killed on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway in a crash that galvanized police into action and created public furor when it was revealed that the truck driver who smashed the family's car had 195 previous traffic offenses. The driver, east Jerusalem resident Yigmor Othman, said he was driving at 90 km/hour and did not have time to stop before slamming into the Suleimani's car with such force that the family vehicle was crushed, wedged under the wheels of Othman's semitrailer. But police said they believed that Othman was tailgating the car that bore Moshe Suleimani, 45, his wife, Irit, and their two children, Ido, six, and Shani, five. Moshe and Shani were both killed in the crash. Irit remained unconscious in serious condition Sunday evening, and neither she nor Ido are aware that they are the only survivors. Irit's brother Alon Sagiv said Sunday he held Mofaz "personally responsible" for the fact that Othman was allowed to continue to drive even with his long list of dangerous offenses. "I want Mofaz to look at my family, at my sister, who still hasn't regained consciousness, and explain why he didn't take this man off the road," Sagiv said, hours before Moshe's and Shani's funeral in Holon. But traffic police officers said Sunday that there was no law establishing a "cut-off" number of offenses after which drivers are ordered off the road. In fact, a Channel 10 check revealed that there are currently 19 people with valid driver's licenses who make Othman look like a model citizen - each of them has more than 250 offenses. Othman, meanwhile, seemed to be determined to use his court appearance for a remand extension Sunday to confirm the popular image of a driver with nearly 200 traffic violations. Cursing, kicking and spitting, he was dragged into the court by traffic police detectives - at one point asking one heckler: "What, you want me to 'whack' someone here?" and later threatening another with: "Wait, wait until I meet you on the road."