Continuing slaughter – on the roads

From a Ynet report dated yesterday:

Traffic fatalities rise in 2016

The number of fatalities in road accidents in Israel currently stands at 32,959, more than all the fatalities of Israel’s wars and terrorist attacks. Of that total, 5,038 were children.

For the fourth consecutive year, the amount of fatalities has increased. 2016 has thus far seen 328 Israelis die on the roads, 14 more than the same period last year. To put that into perspective, 100 more fatalities were recorded in 2016 than 2012.

2016 marks an increase of 15 percent in the amount of drivers killed and a 20 percent increase in the amount of train passengers killed. However, in contrast, 2016 registered a decrease of 16 percent in the amount of motorcyclists killed and a decrease of 10 percent in the amount of pedestrians killed.

Part of the explanation is provided:

In 2015, the state comptroller issued several reports detailing the failures of the government in dealing with the dangers of the road. The report was critical of the lack of effective speed cameras, Ministry of Transportation policies that paralyzed the National Road Safety Authority, the severe shortage of police officers in the traffic division and the lack of effective police enforcement of regulations for pedestrians.

The comptroller attacked the Ministry of Education for drastically scaling back traffic education in schools, particularly on motorcycles, scooters and electric bicycles.

There has been a new law put in place to try and cut down the number of accidents involving electric bicycles and youngsters. There is no sign of that having any effect in Ra’anana. Kids still ride these electric bikes dangerously; they often overload them, drive too fast on the pavement, swerve in and out of traffic lanes, wear no protection, and rarely have any lights. They might as well be wearing a sign saying “Accident waiting to happen.”

Therefore, so far as I am concerned, passing laws is not good enough. Without enforcement that law is a public relations pretense that action has been taken. Action? Yes. Effective? No. Waste of time? So far, yes.

But the real slaughter involves cars on the roads. As if to underline the statistics, this is from today:

Three killed, toddler seriously injured in car crash

Crash took place overnight Saturday after two vehicles collided on Highway 79 in lower Galilee; paramedics forced to pronounce death of a man and two women after being extricated from vehicles; toddler evacuated to hospital having sustained head injuries; another man and woman hospitalized in serious condition, two youths lightly wounded.

Tragic.

Something needs to be done.

The non functioning speed cameras are a disgrace. The undermanned traffic police situation is also a disgrace. The lack of a modern, efficient traffic court system is, you guessed it, a disgrace. There’s a gaping hole in the concern our lawmakers have for the people of this country.

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The land of milk and honey. And traffic.

traffic

From Globes:

Israel has the greatest average traffic density per kilometer among OECD countries. This data is presented in a new OECD paper examining Israel’s green taxation.

That’s the bad news. In the good news section, there is this:

The paper commends the unique method of calculating the green tax Israel formulated in 2009, claiming that it is “innovative and creative in referring not only to CO2 but taking into account five different pollutants and using the vehicle purchase tax to differentiate car models according to their relative impact on the environment.”

Even more good news is this:

According to the paper, the effect of green taxation on the purchase of cleaner vehicles has been “tremendous” and by 2014 about 83% of the private cars sold in Israel were in the lowest pollution grades, compared with 19% in 2009.

Unfortunately, in keeping with the law of unintended consequences, there is also this bad news:

At the same time, OECD researchers claim that the green tax had the side effect of drastically reducing the real purchase tax for many cars, due to green tax benefits, and has therefore reduced family car prices and led to new car sales skyrocketing. The OECD claimed that this leap has facilitated a substantial increase in traffic congestion, resulting in a rise in pollutant emissions, despite decreasing emission per vehicle.

Oh, that’s not good. That’s really bad. They would have been better, it seems, doing nothing!

So, another challenge for the government. Will they rise to it? And how? Well, whatever they do, some of the battle lines are already drawn:

At the present, professional-level officials in the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Tax Authority support a congestion tax, which imposes a tax based on the driver’s actual contribution to congestion and air pollution, while the Ministry of Transportation resolutely opposes such a tax.

The environmental issues may be solved by a growth in electric vehicles, but the issue of congestion is likely to be ever present. We are just going to have to live with the jams.

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Dicing with death

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

This morning’s driving encounter was noteworthy because it has been at least a week since I had last seen the withdrawal maneuver. Withdrawal maneuver? Can you guess what it is?

The withdrawal maneuver is when a  driver, having taken a turn off a road Рtypically a main road, or motorway (highway) Рchanges his mind. He no longer wants to take the turn. He wants to turn back time. But because he cannot turn back time, instead he reverses back up towards the main road he previously left.

It does not matter if there is a lot of traffic, or a little. It does not matter if there is a hard shoulder (emergency lane) or similar, or not. It does not matter if… basically, it does not matter. The withdrawal maneuver happens, regardless.

So, as I came off the main road on this morning’s trip to work, I was nearly killed by somebody doing the withdrawal maneuver. Obviously I survived. And I suppose I can relax a little, because based on past experience, it will be at least a few days before I face the same danger…

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Round and round we go

Tonight’s driving encounter: on the way home from the gym, I drove up to a roundabout just in time to see a nippy little number zip round the roundabout at speed, to nab an empty parking bay. A little too fast, but otherwise unremarkable driving. Except for the fact the stupid bastard was driving the wrong way round the roundabout…

What this country needs is a mass aliyah of traffic policemen, preferably from Scotland!

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Turning left isn’t right

This morning’s drive to work was less than routine. I was in the outside lane, driving south on Highway Four, when I noticed a car ahead of me in the same lane. Stopped. Dead. Indicating left. This lunatic did a u-turn across the central reservation (where there is a narrow break) to head back up the opposite direction. First, he had to wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic. Dangerous? You couldn’t make it up. As I sometimes tell people about driving in Israel, you have to expect the unexpected.

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Saving lives

Say it quietly, but say it: in Israel, you are more at risk of personal injury from a car accident (or being smashed into as a pedestrian) than you are from meeting a terrorist with a knife.

The general standard of driving is not good. The road infrastructure – especially when it comes to junctions, crossings, and so on – is not good. The legal process of dealing with traffic offenses is not good. The enforcement of whatever traffic laws there are, is not good.

There are bad drivers in all places, even Scotland. (!) But a key difference is that in the UK, for example, bad driving is scorned, derided, criticized, condemned, and not socially acceptable. The people who do it are seen for what they are, and what they are is reckless, selfish, dangerous, and thoughtless. No such stigma seems to exist in Israel.

There are initiatives to improve the situation, but it’s going to be a long, hard, and difficult struggle while the bulk of society just does not care.

Until then, unfortunately, fatal disasters like last night’s collision on Highway 1 are inevitable. We are so blessed and lucky that there are not more. Somebody is looking after us. But we should be looking after ourselves.

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The latest new flower in Israel

Susan spotted this, on the way between Ra’anana to Herzliya. ¬†They have recently renovated the road, and planted a range of flowers and shrubs in the central reservation. As the traffic slowed to a halt, among the more common varieties, Susan spotted this rather rare white variety, well dug into the center, but spreading its foliage over the edge somewhat:

IMG-20150611-WA0001a

Yes, the lesser white Mercedes soft-top sports, blooming already in all its finery, though it has not yet shed its roof. It’s a rose of the Cannae Drive variety.

I’m sure there’s a perfectly sensible explanation how that car ended up there, and I’m equally certain it’s got nothing to do with bad driving. Perhaps the central reservation jumped out in front of the driver? Or maybe the driver was simply a keen botanist doing some up close and personal work?

Thanks to Susan for the spot and the picture.

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A gathering

There’s only one way to explain what I experienced on my journey home from work tonight. There must have been, a surprise gathering (or conference) of bad and dangerous drivers called for tonight in Yehud. I can see the email invitation content quite clearly:

“Are you a bad driver? Are you a dangerous driver? Are you both? Well, come along to Yehud tonight, drive around and cause trouble.

Yes, we want you to reverse at speed into the main road.

Of course we want you to stop suddenly, start suddenly, stop suddenly, and then turn left while indicating right.

And you absolutely must charge across the stop line without stopping. You will get extra points if you don’t look to either side as you do this.

But if you cannot come, send a friend. Someone who drives on the other side of the road from time to time – just for variety.”

All this, and more.

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Road safety contributions

This morning’s contribution to road safety on the roads of Israel? A coffee drinking driver cruising in the outside lane of Road Four. (The coffee looked hot.)

To balance this, I also saw a cyclist with helmet, front and back working lights, and bright clothing.

So, not all bad.

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What goes around may reverse

Most sensible people accept that the general standard of driving behavior on Israeli roads is awful. Awfully awful. There is not a single Highway Code rule that is not broken every minute of every day on every main road.

  • Lane discipline? What white lines?
  • Keeping a safe distance? This way he knows I want to overtake.
  • Mirror, signal, maneuver? What’s a signal?
  • Never overtake on a bend? There’s never any oncoming traffic here.
  • Stop at a stop sign? That’s for novice drivers only.

And on it goes. The ironic aspect is that, according to all feedback, the driving test for new young drivers is a long, involved, and demanding process that teaches all the right stuff. But after passing the test…

It’s with this background that you may not be shocked to know that there are several theories why the driving is so poor. This being a popular topic among immigrants (especially) I have heard many, varied excuses. (Or reasons; it depends on your point of view.) This weekend, I heard one that was new to me.

Apparently the 1948 State of Israel had about 400 cars in the entire country. And so, the theory goes, this is not only a young country, but also a young country of drivers. In other words, there are not enough experienced drivers, and certainly not enough experienced generations of drivers, passing on the right driving skills.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t convince me. However, it did spring to mind on the journey home from the office tonight.

It happened like this: I approached a roundabout on a single lane road. The car ahead of me went through the roundabout very slowly. I followed. On the exit from the roundabout, I was still behind this slow car. It stopped. It pulled in. (No; no indicator was harmed in that maneuver.) I passed the car carefully – in case it started up again without warning – noting the little old lady in the driver’s seat. The next thing I see is her starting to move her car. In reverse. She reversed into the roundabout and back the way she had come… OMG, where do they come from? I was glad I was going in the opposite direction.

So your challenge, should you accept it, is to come up with an explanation. Just why is the driving so bad here?

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