Retired Tel Aviv District Court Judge Sarah Sirota cautioned on Sunday that it is too early to judge what happened during Saturday night's horrific accident in which a truck crushed a car on Highway 1, killing a father and his five-year-old daughter, seriously injuring the mother and lightly wounding their six-year-old son. According to reports, the driver had 190 previous convictions for traffic violations. Sirota said the police would have to examine how the accident occurred and the nature of the driver's violations, which could have included minor infractions.
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Nevertheless, if the police conclude that the driver was guilty of gross negligence, he can be tried on two charges of manslaughter, with a maximum sentence of 20 years per charge.
Sirota explained to The Jerusalem Post that the Traffic Ordinance, which is a general law covering the overall aspects of driving, such as the procedure for obtaining a license, also included a criminal section.
For example, the law calls for a punishment of up to nine years in prison for running away from an accident. However, the section on "causing a fatality" includes punishments of up to three years, and is based on the assumption that the accident did not involve gross negligence, and, of course, was not premeditated.
In more serious cases, however, the prosecution may resort to the Penal Code itself. According to Sirota, the severity of the negligence involved in such accidents is enough to justify the more serious charges. Sirota added that she knew from personal experience of a driver who tried to kill the occupants of a car coming towards it in the opposite direction and relented only at the last moment.
Meanwhile, Aharon Lapidot, the spokesman for Or Yarok, a non-government organization which fights against traffic accidents, told the Post that if the truck driver involved in Saturday night's accident still had a valid driver's license after so many traffic violations, it was only because no judge had thought of cancelling it.
However, Lapidot added, it was not only the judges that were at fault. According to the Traffic Ordinance, the state itself has the power to cancel a driver's license if it has good reason to believe the driver is dangerous.
It is not a simple procedure, Lapidot said, but if the state's case is strong enough, the license will be revoked.
The spokesman also quoted from a comment made Sunday by the head of the police traffic division, Cmdr. Avi Ben-Hamo, who said there were 250 drivers on the road with more or less as many convictions as the truck driver.
"The police know the scope of the problem and even the names of the dangerous drivers," the spokesman said. "These people should not be on the road."
Sirota urged that the money paid by drivers for traffic fines be given to the government institutions that fight traffic accidents. Instead, the money goes to the Finance Ministry and can be used for any purpose.