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People who drive on the beach could now face a six-month sentence, under a bill approved by the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee yesterday.

The bill, which passed unanimously in its first reading, doubles the fines for such offenses, which are currently NIS 500 to 1,000.

This comes after a 24-year-old tourist from Sweden was run over and seriously injured by an all-terrain vehicle on a Haifa beach two weeks ago.

The bill, initiated by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), expands the law to include not only the shore, but also adjacent areas such as streams and springs, and nature reserves.

"Beaches are not alternative racetracks or highways. The beaches belong to people, not to vehicles, and this is our reminder for those who may have forgotten," committee chairman MK Ophir Pines-Paz said at the meeting.

Khenin added, "The phenomenon of wild driving on the beaches seems to return every year, endangering the lives of visitors and damaging the beaches. We intend to deal with all the weaknesses of the current law, and to reinforce it."

Enforcement currently lies with police and municipal authorities. Chief Superintendent Avihu Regev, head of the police's environmental protection department, said the current level of enforcement is not enough.

Likewise, the Interior Ministry official charged with supervising beaches, Yosef Amar, said the problem is particularly serious at beaches that local governments do not designate for public use.

Pines-Paz requested that the bill be given high priority, and said that during its second and third readings, the committee will have to "consider the fact that the municipalities are not taking responsibility for undesignated beaches, which take up most of the shoreline. It is unacceptable to enforce the law where it is comfortable and to ignore it where it is not."