Police: Spate of Hit-and-runs Does Not Spell Increase

High-profile crash that killed T.A. woman was just one of seven hit-and-runs over 10 last days.

The high-profile hit-and-run that killed Meital Aharonson last Friday was only one of seven such accidents that occured around the country in the last 10 days. The traffic division of the Israel Police has been monitoring, with considerable alarm, the dangerously erratic behavior of drivers on the country's streets and highways. However, even after the recent spate of hit-and-runs, Israel Police officials note that the number of such accidents has not increased significantly over the past 12 months.

"During the first three quarters of 2007, for example, 11 people were killed in ten fatal hit-and-run accidents, as opposed to 12 dead during the first three quarters of 2008," Chief Superintendent Noam Biegansky, who heads the road accidents section in the traffic division of the Israel Police, points out. In addition, so far 2008 shows an 18 percent decrease in the number of serious hit-and-runs (where people have been injured or killed) as opposed to 2007 - 49 versus 58 incidents. "Despite the dry statistical data," says Biegansky, "we must realize that hit-and-run accidents express a basic contempt for the law and, what is even more serious, a basic contempt for human life and a shocking lack of moral values. That is why the Israel Police utilizes every tool at its disposal to apprehend drivers who leave their victims bleeding on the pavement."

Aharonson, 27, of Tel Aviv, was killed last Friday night when she was hit by a Toyota Land Cruiser SUV at the corner of Ibn Gvirol and Zeitlin streets in Tel Aviv, not far from Rabin Square. According to Israel Police, the vehicle was being driven at the time by Shalom Yemini, a known criminal, alongside whom sat Shai Simon in the front passenger seat. The two men had fled the Tel Aviv port district only a few minutes earlier in the SUV, which belonged to their friend, Victor Lavi, who was detained by police for a breathalyzer test when he emerged from the port district.

At the scene of the accident, there were no signs that the SUV's driver had made any attempt to apply the brakes. Patrol officers attached to Tel Aviv police located the vehicle, which had been abandoned only a short distance from the accident scene, on Henrietta Szold Street. The SUV's driver was traveling at a high speed when the vehicle hit Aharonson, who was crossing the street at a pedestrian crosswalk along with her friend, Mali Meiri Yazdi, who was critically injured. Yazdi remains in hospital.

Yemini and Simon are currently in police custody. Simon was arrested in his home the day after the accident, while Yemini turned himself in the next day. The police believe Yemini and Simon switched places at the steering wheel moments before the accident. Immediately prior to striking Aharonson they had fled the port district when Lavi angrily confronted policewomen who wanted him to submit to a breathalyzer test. When the vehicle hit Aharonson, Yemini and Simon were on their way back to the port district to pick up Lavi.

The drivers fled

In yet another accident, a 74-year-old pedestrian was moderately to seriously injured after being struck by an SUV in Lod. The driver fled. The pedestrian was crossing Shapira Street at a crosswalk when he was hit. He is still in hospital. "This is a section of the highway where the lighting is poor and the crosswalk may not have been sufficiently visible," said Superintendent Ya'akov Cohen of the Shefela district traffic division.

Another hit-and-run incident occurred when a 20-year-old pedestrian was seriously injured at the Beit Dagan junction after having been hit by a vehicle that was traveling from Ramle to Tel Aviv. The driver fled. The pedestrian, who sustained head injuries, was taken to Assaf Harofeh. Police accident inspectors, who were investigating another hit-and-run in Lod at the time, rushed to the scene and set up roadblocks in an attempt to apprehend the driver of the vehicle, however, the driver escaped. "We do not have any eyewitnesses for this accident and, at this stage, it is difficult to determine which of the persons involved in the accident ignored a red light," says Cohen, who requests that witnesses contact police at 050-627-4441.

Another such accident was reported when a 72-year-old Ra'anana resident was found yesterday morning lying on the pavement in Jerusalem Street, after she had apparently been hit by a car. The crew of an MDA intensive care unit, attached to the ambulance service's Yarkon branch discovered the woman, who was suffering from hip injuries, loss of blood and bruises to her arms and legs. They took her to Meir Hospital in Kfar Sava. Doctors at Meir determined that she was a traffic accident victim. Sharon region police have begun investigating and a police spokesman said, "We believe that she was hit by a vehicle, and we ask all those who might have relevant information to contact police at 09-747-3555." The woman, who is suffering from internal bleeding, is currently hospitalized in critical condition.

A week ago Sunday, a 46-year-old pedestrian from Givat Olga was hit by a northbound car on Israel's coastal highway, not far from the Givat Olga interchange. The pedestrian was attempting to cross the highway when he was hit by one vehicle, hurled toward a second vehicle and run down by a third. The pedestrian died. The driver of the first vehicle reportedly braked to a stop but, on seeing police officers at the scene, sped away.