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Tens of thousands of traffic accidents go unreported each year to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The reason: CBS traffic accident data comes from the police, but the police do not open a file for every accident. CBS statistics, therefore, do not reflect the true number of accidents in Israel. Consequently, accident prevention may be hampered by the partial nature of the information with which experts are dealing.

A new study by the Center for Transportation Planning, commissioned by the Transportation Ministry, collected data on traffic accidents from 12 different agencies. The study showed that police reported 19,083 accidents with injuries in 2002, while the insurance companies reported 86,729 accidents - a difference of 67,646 accidents.

CBS statistics relect fewer accidents than those of the insurance companies, due to the definition of what constitutes an accident. The police report only accidents with serious injuries or deaths. Often, accidents in which people have been lightly injured do not meet police criteria for required reporting and therefore go unrecorded. In 2002, this meant that 71,000 accidents went unrecorded by the CBS - 64 percent of the accidents that year.

The differences have also resulted in contradictory presentations of accident trends: The police record a decrease in accidents, while the insurance companies report an increase.

Dr. Moshe Becker, a transport expert, claims the number of reported accidents are a function not of those that actually occur, but of the ability of the police to provide reliable reports.

The study concludes that the reporting criteria set by the police suit enforcement agencies, but not those bodies involved in prevention.