This is just in: 2021 was the deadliest year on Israel’s roads in the past four years, with over 360 mortalities and hundreds more injuries sustained, in just 12 months. 26 percent of those fatalities were people driving private cars, 33 percent were riding motorcycles, and 23 percent were pedestrians.
According to acting Road Safety Authority head Snir Zaidel, “the fight against the carnage on the roads is a national goal that everyone must take part in — the government, local authorities, the police and all of us who use the roads. The carnage on the roads can only be stopped through a national, long-term program formulated by the Transportation Ministry and the Road Safety Authority, which prioritizes vulnerable travelers and takes into account the increase in population and travel, along with a significant improvement in public transportation.”
In his statement, Zaidel does not assign blame to any particular reason for the increase in deadly car crashes, and with good reason. Indeed, there are many factors involved in every single collision, from poor visibility brought on by weather conditions and sub-par road infrastructure that does not encourage safe driving, to the human preponderance to multi-task or rush while heading to their destination. In Israel, roadside terror – rock-throwing, car plowing, shootings, etc. – or the fear of it along certain roads, must also be considered.
As we move towards smart city models, let’s examine the main causes of most car crashes – In Israel and abroad – so that due attention can be paid, where it’s needed most:
Sudden inclement weather
As drivers make their way from one place to another, local weather conditions can shift. Sudden fog can set in, a sunshower or worse – a full-on storm – can erupt overhead, the sun can set at just the right angle to catch the driver’s eye, ice can form on the roads, and strong winds can make staying on course a challenge to even the most focused and experienced driver.
With changes in weather comes the need to adapt to new and often poor visibility and stability whilst driving. Sometimes, roads are blocked off, forcing harried drivers to course-correct under suboptimal conditions. And while drivers are told to take it slow in inclement weather, a race against the clock and the need to navigate both the weather and the other drivers in the same “boat,” can sometimes lead to deadly results. This is true in Israel and around the world.
Shoddy road infrastructure
Israel isn’t only a “Startup Nation” in terms of technology. The country is also constantly “starting up” new communities and building roads to reach them, at breakneck speed. Sometimes, temporary roads are paved by pioneering civilians (meaning that they aren’t actually paved at all). Other times, city planners suffering from tunnel vision fail to factor in future congestion and parking needs, creating bottleneck situations and a breeding ground for road rage.
When the roads’ infrastructure isn’t built to handle the number of cars traveling on the roads, or to slow traffic down at key intersections, drivers have to take extra precautions to stay safe while driving. Often however it isn’t enough. Several examples of shoddy Israeli road infrastructure that became the sites of deadly car crashes come to mind, particularly in the Negev and Judea and Samaria, and this phenomenon can be seen highlighted in accident reports worldwide as well.
Israel doesn’t hold a monopoly on terrorism, but, unfortunately, the country does suffer from attacks on its roads far more than many other developed countries. Even in periods of relative calm, some of the country’s more disputed areas, such as Jerusalem and Judea, and Samaria, experience terrorism. Rocks are thrown from hilltops and cars are crowded and plowed into by terrorists more often than news outlets (even Israeli ones) care to admit.
To make it from their starting point to their desired destination in one piece, step on the gas and zoom down these roads, which are often windy and devoid of traffic lights (or law enforcement officials), further increasing the risk of death, should a collision occur.
Poor driver behavior
People make mistakes. It’s human nature. That said, many are often preventable. The main causes of deadly car crashes attributed to poor driver behavior include non-compliance with speed limits, particularly on rural roads, driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, sleepiness or fatigue, a lack of proper seatbelt, and helmet use, and distractions. It’s not uncommon to see Israeli drivers fiddling with their smartphones, eating a sandwich, or even shaving or applying mascara while driving. This, despite many laws outlining proper behavior behind the wheel.
In a way, poor Israeli behavior while driving is a direct extension of the chutzpah that so aptly defines the country’s culture. Israelis tend to feel invincible and that their time is most important; after all, we (as a people) have survived the atrocities of the Holocaust, built a flourishing nation with our own two hands, and are developing the next generation of innovative thinkers and doers, in-house.
The common thread driving the blame game
While it’s clear that multiple factors come into play whenever a car crash claims lives, it is just as evident that a single common thread links them all together: human error. From errors made by road infrastructure planners to errors made by drivers who simply don’t slow down, get their bearings, and drive defensively, as we were all taught, human errors are costing lives on Israeli and global roads on a daily basis. It’s a fact.
Legislations are helpful, and road maintenance is key. That said, it’s up to any city or country’s citizens to take an active role in their own safety on the roads. The time to stop assigning blame and start assuming responsibility while driving starts now.
How are you working to promote safety on the roads?
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