Needed: Roads With Leeway

Sunday's accident on the coastal road caused 2 Km traffic jam, leaving thousands of motorists stranded for hours

This week brought two painful reminders of the deplorable state of Israel's roads. One came as a tractor-trailer overturned on the coastal highway, and another on Route 25 in the Arava as a truck driver lost control, veered into the oncoming lane and fatally crushed five members of a single family.

Sunday's accident on the coastal road caused a two-kilometer traffic jam, leaving thousands of frustrated motorists stranded for hours. The damage such accidents cause the economy (and the drivers' nerves) is self-evident.

Sunday's incident happened because the road is outdated - on the long segment between Netanya and Haifa, the stretch where the 6:30 A.M. crash occurred, there is no lighting between intersections. Had the highway been three lanes wide , the collision would not have led to such a massive jam, as one lane could have been left open with respectable margins.

Monday's accident in the south did not need to result in death. It happened on one of the country's most dangerous highways, a narrow and treacherous stretch on which 53 people were killed between 2003 and 2008. The section in which the accident occurred is undivided, so any error can send a vehicle careening from its lane into a devastating head-on collision.

Israel has many other such roads where maintenance levels are similar to those of an undeveloped country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, is not worried by such trifles - he shoots for the big game.

On the day of the accident in the south, the prime minister convened a press conference to present his "vision": covering the country with railroad tracks. The program is projected to cost NIS 27.5 billion, but would likely end up costing twice that much.

A few delusional projects have been omitted from the original plan (tracks to Eilat and Kiryat Shmona, for example), but a number of superfluous and wasteful lines are still slated to be built.

Instead of throwing money at projects aimed at posturing and public relations, Netanyahu should announce an entirely different vision, and direct those billions toward making Israel's roads safer, in line with Western countries. Drivers will always make mistakes - it is human nature. We must not, however, let every human error lead to avoidable fatalities.