This Pessah, all roads lead to... nowhere

Highways to holiday destinations nationwide have been jammed; police tip: Set off early and stay calm.

traffic jam highway 1 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
traffic jam highway 1 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Traffic reports opened the hourly news broadcasts for most of Thursday, as the nation’s highways were jammed with vehicles making slow progress toward holiday destinations across the country.
News presenters read out road numbers and junction names in rapid fire. All were packed, some due to accidents but most due to the sheer volume of vehicles.
Similar conditions were experienced on Wednesday and will likely continue through the weekend.
At 1 p.m. the Nature and Parks Authority sent out a report that the parking lots at the Banyas and Yehudiya parks were completely full, and urged travelers to visit alternative destinations.
KKL-JNF also sent out notices that their forests and parks in the Golan and the Galilee were packed with visitors and urged people to go to the Negev where parking was abundant and the roads slightly less congested, though there were reports of slow going on the roads there, too.
While many Israeli commuters are used to sitting in traffic on their way in and out of the major cities, during holiday breaks, traffic jams occur in areas that are usually free of such phenomenon.
Route 31 from Arad to the Dead Sea, for example, is usually barren of traffic, especially in the middle of the week, but on Thursday drivers timed the 23-kilometer drive at 40 minutes. Similarly, a six-kilometer drive on Route 60 from Tel Adashim to Afula was timed as taking 32 minutes.
Traffic police spokesman Yigal Habsor said that it would be impossible to prevent the gridlock entirely, but that the police would be out on the roads in an effort to ease the congestion as much as possible.
“The National Traffic Police were deployed across the county’s roads and intersections from the early hours with an expanded force of officers and volunteers in order to help maintain the flow of traffic,” he said. “The deployment was arranged based on early mapping conducted by the police based on traffic patterns of previous years.
“The police also used special measures, including motorcycle units, who enjoy greater mobility and can detect disturbances easily, and volunteer tow truck drivers, who help remove any obstructions from the roads speedily.” Habsor said that the police cooperated fully with the broadcast media, through which they notified drivers of congested areas and suggested alternative routes.
He also offered several tips on how to make sure one’s drive would be as safe and fast as possible.
“The best thing people can do is plan ahead,” said Habsor. “Start your day early and plan to leave early to avoid the heaviest traffic jams.”
He also stressed the importance of remaining calm, even when stuck in traffic.
“We have zero tolerance for aggressive driving and will be going afteranyone who tries to flout the law by driving on the side of the road orcutting off other vehicles,” he said.
The National Road Safety Authority advised drivers to take  breaksoften while driving and only get behind the wheel when fully alert andsober. They also recommended preparing activities for young children,who become easily bored during long rides and tend to disrupt the calmof the other occupants in the car.
Finally they urged drivers to avoid stopping on the side of the road, even in the case of a mechanical problem.
“In most cases there is a proper stop or rest area just a fewkilometers ahead, said the authority spokesman. “If there is no choicebut to stop on the side, make sure to cross the safety barrier andalways were reflective vests.”