Route 65 Claims 31st Victim in 5 Years

Yet another person was killed yesterday on Route 65, on the deadly stretch between Afula and Nahal Tzalmon, prompting local residents to wonder how many more people would be killed before the government finally keeps its promise to widen the road.

This stretch of road is one of the most dangerous in Israel. An investigative report published by Haaretz last year concluded that based on the volume of traffic it gets and its dangerous conditions, it needs to be a four-lane highway - two on each side - on top of other improvements.

Yesterday's accident occurred at about 2 P.M., police said, when a car heading from Golani Junction to Afula skidded on a curve north of Moshav Ilaniya in the lower Galilee. The driver lost control and crashed into an oncoming vehicle. The crash killed the passenger sitting next to the driver who lost control, and left both drivers moderately injured. They were brought to Poriya Hospital in Tiberias for treatment.

The dead man, a 44-year-old resident of Qabatiyah in the northern West Bank, was the 31st person to be killed in 23 fatal accidents over the last five and a half years on the 33-kilometer stretch of Route 65 between Nin Junction and Nahal Tzalmon Junction. Of these, 26 people were killed in head-on collisions when one driver swerved out his lane.

"Almost everyone who comes from the center of the country to the Galilee travels on this road," noted Dr. Moshe Becker, an expert in road safety, in the investigative report Haaretz published last year.

In that report, Becker also noted that the government's own standards call for expanding roads from two lanes to four if the volume of traffic averages more than 16,000 vehicles a day. This includes that stretch of Route 65.

"The promises made by cabinet ministers in recent years, and reiterated at the most recent Galilee Conference, are still ringing in my ears," said an angry Moti Dotan, head of the Lower Galilee Regional Council, which contains most of the fatal stretch. "But despite the promises, Route 65 is not on the relevant ministries' agendas."