Changing the ‘driving culture’

Tough penalties to reduce road accidents set to begin in May.

Deadly car accident 311 (photo credit: ZAKA / Tzvika Level)
Deadly car accident 311
(photo credit: ZAKA / Tzvika Level)
The Transportation and Justice ministries unveiled regulations on Wednesday they hope will not only reduce road accidents but fundamentally change the country’s “driving culture.”
The plans announced by the Transportation Ministry will suspend driving privileges for nine months for motorists accumulating 72 points on their licenses. Drivers will only be able to renew their licenses after passing theoretical, practical and medical tests to ensure qualification to drive. (Until now, the license of a driver who accumulated 36 points was suspended for three months, and reinstated after completing a theory test.) The changes go into effect in May.
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry announced it will impose harsher penalties on drivers convicted of serious traffic offenses. The new penalties include prison terms for driving without a license or while disqualified.
Motorists caught driving while intoxicated may be taken off the roads for two to three years, and in some cases even sentenced to prison terms.
Drivers caught speeding could face a license suspension or even a suspended prison sentence, and those crossing a red light – or failing to give way or wait at a stop sign – could face suspensions of three to six months.
A Justice Ministry spokeswoman said the plans – the result of two years’ cooperation between the Traffic Police and State Attorney’s Office – aim to improve safety on the roads by fundamentally changing the country’s driving culture.
The harsher punishments, which were overseen by State Attorney Moshe Lador and Traffic Police chief Bruno Stein, include new summary offenses and prosecution procedures.
Israel has a high rate of road accidents, with 1,269 fatal accidents between 2007 and 2010 (the number of people killed is even higher). A total of 320 people died in traffic accidents between January and November of this year.
Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino warned those who intend to drink on New Year’s Eve to “not go near a steering wheel, because the enforcement will be stringent.”
He added that he continued to be haunted by the case of a 12-year-old boy run over and mortally injured in the South.
“I went to scene and visited the boy during his last hours in hospital.
Since then his image has not left me,” Danino said. “We must prevent the next accident.”
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.