Traffic accidents rise to the top of the public agenda about twice a year, when the number of casualties becomes unbearable or when an accident is particularly horrific, such as the one this week in which five teenagers from Tirat Hacarmel were killed.
Two hours before their deaths, one of them sent a text message to his girlfriend's cellular telephone: "We are drinking vodka, my love. Come, there are lots of laughs here" - as if we needed written proof that today's teenagers (not all of them) drink and drive despite all the warnings and information campaigns.
There is something the traffic police can do in both these matters - the drinking and dangerous driving at excessive speeds. A few months ago Traffic Police Commander Ya'acov Raz promised that the traffic police would stop monitoring drivers in the cities and devote its manpower to the really dangerous places - the inter-city roads and alcohol strips in the north and center of the country.
Promises are one thing. Actions, however, are another. Traffic police continue to be sent on missions whose goal is to fill the treasury's empty coffers. They issue tickets to pedestrians who cross the street at Dizengoff Center when the light is red, for example, and continue to lie in wait for drivers who do not signal a right turn. And since the traffic police's resources are limited, those same policemen are very lacking on the inter-city roads and the alcohol centers.
There is another sensitive issue that is seldom discussed, the infrastructure. When the volume of traffic on a certain road surpasses 10,000 cars a day, a dividing barrier must be built to prevent cars from veering into oncoming traffic. That is the international standard. There is no such dividing barrier, however, on the old Tel Aviv-Haifa road (Route 4), so when the young driver lost control of his car and veered out of his lane at 4 A.M. last Tuesday morning, there was nothing to prevent him from careening into the oncoming traffic, and it was his bad luck that a truck appeared in the opposite lane. Five more young people were added to the death statistics.
Most of our roads are in a terrible state of disrepair, with potholes and bumps and without appropriate, safe shoulders, safety barriers or lane dividers. The signposting is also unclear and misleading and all these factors must be added to the high traffic density.
It is clear that the construction of interchanges and the improvement of the roads and their maintenance are a budgetary matter, but the division of resources is political and all of Israel's governments (apart from that of the late Yitzhak Rabin in 1992) invested more and more in the roads in the territories at the expense of the roads within the Green Line. The results of this are visible every morning. The condition of the roads inside the Green Line is at its worst, but even now tremendous digging is going on under Mount Scopus. There is no huge tunnel like this or similar to it anywhere inside the Green Line. Another example is the two giant tunnels and the bridge, the likes of which are seen only in Switzerland, that were built for the few thousand residents of the Etzion Bloc. But there is no money for a short overpass that would finally relieve the country's biggest traffic jam zone, the Glilot intersection.
The roads inside the Green Line are at the bottom of the current government's list of priorities, and there is no pressure group for roads and interchanges. They have no Yesha Council and no Knesset members to represent them. There is no one who will pressure the government to prevent the slaughter on the roads inside the Green Line.
No government has ever fallen and no transportation minister has ever resigned over the number of traffic fatalities. But the government turns weak in the knees when confronted by Yesha's strong, unified pressure group, so the budget allocations go there, to the vocal minority, and not to dividing barriers on the heavily burdened roads inside the Green Line.
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