The percentage of pedestrians among all those killed in traffic accidents in Israel is significantly higher than in most industrialized countries, a study recently carried out by the Or Yarok (Green Light) road safety association shows.
According to the findings, Israel is in third place in the world in the percentage of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents. Since 2003, there have been 9,849 pedestrians hurt (1,210 seriously) in traffic accidents all over the country, including 210 dead.
As opposed to the prevailing belief that a crosswalk is a safe place for pedestrians, the study found that most pedestrians are killed on city roads. The study also showed that about a quarter of these lethal accidents took place at a crosswalk without traffic lights.
Among other things, the researchers discovered that danger at the crosswalks stems from the behavior of the drivers, whose tolerance for pedestrians is low, as well as from pedestrians who pay no attention to traffic rules.
For example, the study showed that about 17 percent of pedestrians crossed when they were not supposed to. In addition, at crosswalks without traffic lights it was found that between 16 percent and 17 percent cross the road without looking first.
"The drivers in Israel aren't serious," the director of Or Yarok, Shmuel Aboav, told Haaretz. "They don't take the crosswalks into consideration, don't slow down and don't consider the high amount of accidents."
He says that "suitable infrastructures that slow down driving speed before crosswalks, increasing lighting and adding traffic lights would protect the pedestrians and save their lives."
One person who has firsthand experience of the danger involved in crossing a road on foot is Ilana Bach, whose father Moshe Markowitz, 79, was killed in April after being hit by a car as he was crossing the main street in Gedera. The crosswalk where Markowitz was killed is located on Herzl Street, which is actually a part of Route 40, which crosses Gedera.
"It was on Passover eve and he went out to buy presents for his grandchildren. When he reached the crosswalk one car stopped for him, he started to cross, but then another car came at very high speed and hit him," said Bach.
Markowitz, a survivor of the Buchenwald death camp, was hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for several days, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries.
"After we got up from the shiva [the seven-day mourning period] I started to confront the local council, to Maatz - the Israel Public Works Department - and to the Ministry of Transportation. I asked that someone take responsibility and take care of making sure that the crossing in this place is safe, but to date nobody has done anything."
"Without a flashing yellow light, without speed bumps, this crosswalk is a permanent death trap," Bach said. "My father was not the first one killed at this dangerous crosswalk, and unfortunately he will apparently not be the last. If Maatz and the Transportation Ministry know what is happening here, when every week there is an average of two accidents with pedestrians at exactly this spot, it's simply criminal negligence."
Maatz replied that speed bumps were only placed on city streets.
"As far as upgrading the road, dangerous spots are dealt with according to an order of priorities, with the main criterion being the degree of danger," it said. "Every year the company takes care of dozens of dangerous spots at a cost of about $200 million allocated for the purpose.
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