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Road fatalities this month have been at the lowest level in 42 years, although 15 people still died in accidents. Police said the Gaza war and a general crackdown on pedestrian offenses were among the factors affecting the drop.

"It's hard to explain both the rise and fall in traffic fatalities, but basically it depends on drivers and pedestrians' awareness and caution," Chief Superintendent Yossi Hatukai, head of research and information in the police traffic division, said yesterday.

The police and Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) have no record of monthly fatalities prior to 1966. The previous lowest number of monthly traffic fatalities was recorded in August 2006, in which 26 people were killed compared to a monthly average of 40.

"The significant dip in fatalities this month is attributed, among other things, to the Gaza war, which made drivers more fearful, tolerant and careful on the road. The plunge was registered all over the country," he said.

"We posted police cars along dangerous roads and at intersections near mixed communities. Drivers who saw the police cars immediately slowed down, thinking they were traffic cops," he said. The tourist bus accident on the way to Eilat at the end of last year also had an effect on the number of fatalities, Hatukai said.

"It was an accident on a huge scale. Everyone talked about it.," he said.

The recent crackdown on pedestrian transgressions, in which thousands of people crossing the street illegally received traffic reports, also contributed to a decrease in fatalities this month, together with television broadcasts and public campaigns launched by organizations fighting traffic accidents.

In 2008, 158, about one third, of 451 casualties were pedestrians, twice as many as in Europe. More than 60 percent of them were killed by crossing highways. Many others were killed while crossing city streets, he said.