Transport Ministry Opposes Bid to Allow Highway Billboards

Ministry official indicates there is tie between billboards, car crashes; MK Erdan: Evidence is insufficient.

The Ministry of Transport and Road Safety is opposed to a Knesset proposal that would provide for the return of billboards alongside the Ayalon freeway.

Environmental groups and safe-driving advocates initially pressed for the ban, which went into effect early this year, when advertising companies were forced to drape large cloths over huge billboards lining major highways.

But a number of lawmakers have fought to restore the signs, arguing that there is insufficient evidence that the billboards pose a distraction to motorists.

The ministry voiced its opposition at a Monday meeting of the Knesset Economics Committee.

But committee chairman MK Gilad Erdan (Likud), said the bill to restore the signs still stands a chance of being passed.

Professor David Shinar of the National Road Safety Authority said that the ministry opposition is based on research showing that 80% of traffic accidents are caused as a result of drivers being distracted.

"We know from research that signs distract people. What we don't know is whether there is a direct link between signs and traffic accidents."

Erdan criticized the ministry, saying that Shinar had presented a different position from that which he had declared before the courts.

"Who are you not telling the truth to - the courts or the committee?" Erdan asked. "If you sit down seriously and conclude from the research that the signs are indeed causing traffic accidents, I will be the first to pull the proposed law."

In response Shinar explained, "I still stand by the research that I wrote in 2006. The research that I presented isn't the position of David Shinar, but rather the authority's position."

Erdan accused the ministry of contempt of the Knesset, saying that if the ministry had related seriously to the legislators and the topic of road safety, it should have submitted the research three days before the committee session "so that the MKs could read it, and the public and government offices could deal with it."

Instead of three days, the committee members had only minutes to study the material, Erdan said, adding that this "method shows contempt for the Knesset and democracy."

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