Hundreds of military police, traffic police and volunteers spent Thursday night checking cars in junctions throughout the country in an effort to catch and prevent drunk-driving soldiers.
The traditional Israel Defense Forces approach, by which the army is no longer responsible for a soldier once he leaves a base, is rapidly changing. Fourteen IDF soldiers have been killed in road accidents since the beginning of the year, prompting IDF personnel head Maj. Gen. Avi Zamir to set up a plan to combat the phenomenon.
The plan received the support of the traffic department at the police, the Or Yarok driving association and the National Road Safety Authority.
"One of the messages we're trying to get to soldiers is that there's nothing shameful about preventing an intoxicated friend from getting behind the wheel," Zamir told Haaretz. "Real friendship is measured by how much responsibility you're willing to take for your friend. Anyone thinking reporting on a friend driving drunk is wrong needs to remember a report like that can save his life."
On Thursday night, Central District traffic police commander, Chief Superintendent Ami Daha, took Zamir for a tour of one of Tel Aviv's clubbing areas. The general encountered soldiers there in a different environment than he's used to.
"Are you soldiers?" he asked a group of youths clustered around a car parked on Salame street doubling as a mobile bar, with bottles of vodka, cans of Red Bull and music on full blast.
"Commander, mechanical engineers team", one of them replied through clouds of alcohol. The other youths told the nonplussed commander that although they were all of conscription age, the closest they've been to the army was watching it on TV.
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