Israelis are more concerned about car accidents than about terror, unemployment or crime according to a survey presented Tuesday at a press conference organized by Or Yarok (green light), the association founded eight years ago to change Israel's driving culture. Almost 90 percent of survey participants, a percentage higher than in similar surveys in any European country, said accidents were the most worrisome problem they confronted. Dr. Tzipi Lotan of Or Yarok presented a series of dismal statistics o n Israeli attitudes toward driving, and the number of accident victims in Israel as compared to Europe.
In Israel, 7.1 children out of every million people are killed each year in car accidents. In the Netherlands and Germany, by contrast, the numb e rs are less than half: between two and three children out of every million people.
Israel is also the country in which drivers are the least likely to give the right of way to pedestrians - a finding that correlates with the high number of pedest ri ans injured in car accidents.
Or Yarok's annual conference opens Wednesday evening at Tel Aviv University with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in attendance. On Thursday the association will host a series of panels on road safety with the participation of Ju stice Minister Tzipi Livni and other government officials, members of the police force and academics. Fred Wegman, the director of the Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands, is the guest of honor.
This year the panels will be devoted to t he national program for road safety prepared by the Sheinin Committee. The program, which was approved in July, is currently awaiting a second and third reading in the Knesset.
"I hope very much that the program will be approved during the term of t he cu rrent Knesset," said Or Yarok chair Avi Naor. "If it is, this will be a turning point in the area of road safety."
According to data provided by Or Yarok, 500 Israelis are killed every year in car accidents and an additional 3,500 Israelis are grav ely in jured and are unable to resume normal lives.
"The national road safety program could save the lives of 200 people a year," Naor said.
In 2004, the third SARTER (Social Attitudes Towards Road Traffic Risk in Europe) survey was conducted in 23 Euro pean countries. This year, Or Yarok conducted a similar survey among 1,000 Israeli drivers in an effort to compare Israeli and European conduct on the road.
Asked to rate their degree of frustration with other drivers, Israelis also scored higher than an y Europ ean country.
Israeli drivers also top the charts in terms of driving beyond the speed limit, and in believing that the speed limit in their country should be raised. At the same time, those surveyed also advocated more serious reinforcement of speed limits.
In comparison with European countries, Israel has a very low percentage of drunken drivers. Statistics on this matter, however, must be measured against a related statistic - the chances of being stopped and tested for alcohol by the Israeli police, which are close to zero.
Israelis also talk on their cellphones while driving more than any European nation: 50% of those surveyed said they spoke on their phones and answered calls while driving.
Not surprisingly, in view of these statistics, Israelis also expressed the highest degree of concern for family members on the road.
On the bright side, a separate Or Yarok study revealed that road safety has become one of the most widely covered subjects in both written and electronic Israeli media.