The road to recovery

The village of Abu Ghosh breaks the vicious circle of traffic accidents.

abu gosh 88 (photo credit: )
abu gosh 88
(photo credit: )
Jerusalem is not the only city trying to make its roads safer ("In the right direction?" November 10) - improvements in infrastructure are being made in surrounding areas as well. Driving through Abu Ghosh isn't the same any more, says Victoria Polak, who works as a translator at Neveh Ilan-based Channel 2 and passes through the village's main route on a daily basis. The reason: you cannot speed in Abu Ghosh anymore. A new traffic circle and 13 buffers are now standing between the driver and high speed. Not so long ago the main route through the village was considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in the area, and traffic accidents were a daily routine for the residents. "Not only does this particular route go through the center of the village and connect its north and south, but it is also one of the most important regional routes, used by those traveling to Har Adar and Neveh Ilan," says Isa Jaber, head of the Education Department at Abu Ghosh local council. "More then six years ago the route was improved and renovated, and the total cost of the work was NIS 11 million, but there were still no buffers or traffic circles to slow down the cars. Moreover, there was no overpass or tunnel. Each year two to three people died in traffic accidents on the route, and another 15-20 were injured." According to Jaber, the Transportation Ministry approved the budget for improving the road long ago, but the work was delayed because of a dispute on whether the route fell under local or district jurisdiction and whether adding the buffers and traffic circle would detain the traffic." Jaber told In Jerusalem that the death of two schoolgirls, who were hit by a truck last year, forced the residents of Abu Ghosh to extreme action. Taking it to the streets proved to be effective. The work started this summer and now the cars go on passing through Abu Ghosh but at much slower speeds. "The results are amazing - the rate of traffic accidents in these few months decreased by 70 percent," says Jaber. Hani Jaber, the head of the Local Council, says that the ultimate goal of the council is to bring the number of traffic accidents in the village to zero. "We are trying to bring this matter to the awareness of all Abu Ghosh residents, placing special emphasis on schoolchildren and the student population. We talk to them about how to behave on the road, as we understand that it's important not only to change the driving conditions, but also to educate the drivers - young and old." A Jerusalem Police spokesperson told IJ that the police have been working to better the driving conditions in Abu Ghosh. "After the new construction was completed, the ratio of traffic accidents declined sharply," he says. "The changing of the driving environment in Abu Ghosh has proved itself to be a wise decision." While the situation has improved significantly in the past few months, says Hani Jaber, there are still a lot of traffic-related issues in the village. While complimenting the police on their contribution, he also calls for more work to be done in Abu Ghosh. "Hundreds of people come to visit our fine restaurants and enjoy the village, but we still need the help of the Public Works Authority in working out parking arrangements, so that people will not park on the route. We have to remember that negligence takes its toll in human lives," concludes Jaber.