Israeli Study: Good Roads More Important Than Law Enforcement

Improved highway infrastructure does more to prevent accidents than law enforcement, according to Israel's central bank.

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A lethal car accident near Tiberias, Dec. 23, 2013.
A lethal car accident near Tiberias, Dec. 23, 2013.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Highway infrastructure improvement dramatically reduces the number of traffic accidents, according to a new Bank of Israel study which looked at the impact of road improvements - as compared to enforcement of traffic laws - as factors in curbing traffic deaths.

The number of deaths from traffic accidents in Israel declined by 40 percent between 2000 and 2012, as did the number of accidents causing injuries or death. Nonetheless, 263 people lost their lives on Israel’s roads in 2012 in more than 12,000 accidents that caused personal injury.

The impact of improvements to infrastructure is very clear, the study found, but no similar impact was discernible from the presence of police officers and speed cameras, as measured by the number of tickets issued. Findings from abroad, the study noted, showed a mixed picture when it comes to the enforcement of traffic laws as a positive factor in curbing accidents. Although no general lesson could be drawn such findings, enforcement of traffic laws on certain roads was shown to curb accidents, the study said.

The role played by infrastructure improvements in the Bank of Israel’s findings was dramatic. Guard rails dividing oncoming lanes of traffic were found to have reduced the number of accidents by 32 percent.

It was also found that sharp turns on average increase the number of accidents by 21 percent, underlining the importance of current work to minimize sharp turns on Route 1 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Ironically, however, road work itself increases the number of accidents by 14 percent on average, and the central bank recommends that this be taken into consideration when highway work is planned.

Road quality was higher in the center of Israel than in outlying areas, the study found. More of the most dangerous highways are in the north than in the south. Some of the country’s most dangerous roads are not highly congested and some are not even particularly poorly engineered.

The study didn’t look at other factors affecting road safety, such as automobile design, public service campaigns and emergency medical services at the scene of accidents.

The decline in the number of traffic accidents involving injury is not limited to Israel; it is the trend elsewhere in the developed world. Israel’s road safety standing among developed countries remains about where it has been - in the middle of the pack. The economic cost of traffic accidents in Israel between 2008 and 2010 was estimated at about 15 billion shekels ($4.3 billion).

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