Israel had the fewest number of traffic fatalities in 50 years, Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz declared at a press conference in Tel Aviv today. 287 people were killed in traffic accidents in 2012, 25% fewer than in 2011. Katz said that there were 20% fewer fatalities in the past four years compared with the four preceding years.
"In addition to this year's achievement, we've seen a decline in accidents over the past ten years. The number of accidents has fallen, the number of injured has fallen, and the number of fatalities has fallen," said Katz. He added that these numbers fell despite the increase in the number of motor vehicles from fewer than 100,000 forty years ago to 2.8 million vehicles today.
Katz said that the Israel's fatalities/travel ratio (total kilometers driven by all vehicles) has risen from 15th best worldwide to 10th. "I've set the goal of being in the top five in the safety ratings within four years," he said, adding that NIS 40 billion has been invested in transportation, including mass transit and public transit project, in the past four years.
Katz defended his decision to raise the speed limit on Road 6 (the Cross Israel or Yitzhak Rabin Highway) to 120 km/h (130 km/h in practice), saying, "Where we've raised the speed limit, there has been no deterioration in the situation, and in some place there are now fewer accidents than before."
Katz said that penalties and traffic enforcement policy on life-threatening violations have been tightened in the past years. "Safety violations, which once accounted for 64% of policemen's energy, are no longer enforced. Now there is a focus on life-threatening violations."
56% drop in traffic fatalities since 2004
National Road Safety Authority director Prof. Yaakov Sheinin said, "I still wash out my ears every time I hear the transport minister set the goal of being one of the five safest countries in the world in road safety by 2020. There has been nothing like it before, and it's not just slogans."
Sheinin headed the public committee on road accidents, whose recommendations were approved in 2005. He said that, since 2004, the number of fatalities per billion kilometers has fallen from 12.7 to 5.6, and the number of seriously injured has been halved. "A 56% drop in fatalities is an unprecedented achievement," he said.
"The situation was simply terrible, but it's better. We rose from 20th place in the world in 2004 to 14th place in 2010, and we're now among the ten safest countries in the world," he said. "We want to fall below four fatalities per billion kilometers to be among the five safest countries in the world. The minister has agreed that this should happen by 2018, not by 2020. It's a great challenge; it means 260 fatalities even as travel increases 30% because of a 40% increase in the amount of driving."
Sheinin cited six reasons for the drop in traffic accidents and fatalities; road infrastructures are a world away from what they were in 2004; the importance that the media gives to the subject; the activity of Or Yarok Association for Safer Driving in Israel; improved motor vehicle technologies, which have reduced fatalities by 3% a year; more effective enforcement and faster rescue and medical care; and successful activity by the National Road Safety Authority and Knesset lobby in fighting traffic accidents.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on December 30, 2012
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