The Israeli Driver: Angry and on the Phone, but Sober

The Israeli driver is more concerned about road accidents than his European counterpart, worries more when his family members are on the road, and drinks less alcohol.

But the Israeli driver also admits that he shows less respect for others, and gives pedestrians the right of way less often than European drivers. He also admits that he speaks more on his cellular phone and gets angry more often.

These are among the findings of a comparative survey, the first of its kind conducted in Israel that was released at a Tel Aviv news conference yesterday by Or Yarok (Green Light), a nonprofit organization that promotes road safety.

Dr. Tzipi Lotan, the chief researcher, said the survey was similar to one carried out in 23 European countries. It encompassed 1,000 Israeli drivers from all sectors of the population who were asked the identical in-depth questions as their European counterparts.

There are 346 cars to every 1,000 people in Israel, putting Israel in 20th place in comparison with the European countries. Israel has only about half the number of cars per capita as affluent countries such as Germany, Switzerland or Austria, and is on a par with Croatia, Slovakia and Hungary.

On the other hand, Israel is in third place with the annual number of road deaths among children - about 7.1 per 1 million residents.

The Israelis hold the European title for getting angry on the roads and using cell phones while driving. About 50 percent of drivers admitted they were angry with other drivers, and that they made at least one call while driving.

Asked about fear of road accidents, 88 percent of the Israeli drivers said they were worried, as compared with the Swedes, who were last among the Europeans with only 12 percent worrying about road accidents. With regard to worrying about overcrowded roads, the Israelis again were near the top of the list, with 48 percent, compared with fewer than 10 percent among the Scandinavians.

However, the Israeli driver drinks less than most of his European counterparts, except the Scandinavians.

Lotan said Israel would be included in the next comprehensive European survey on driving.

Another Or Yarok survey was released at yesterday's news conference. It was carried out by Prof. Gadi Wolfsfeld in cooperation with the Yifat company, and it examined the amount of time and space devoted to road safety in the Israeli media. The "economic worth" of the time and space devoted to the subject in the electronic media and in the written press was estimated as NIS 92 million per year.

Or Yarok's founder and chairman Avi Naor also answered questions about his proposed appointment as head of the national authority for road safety when it is reorganized. There is currently a disagreement between the Finance Ministry and the Knesset's Finance Committee over the budget to be allocated to the authority.

Naor, who has been pushing for the adoption of a national road safety program for years, said he would not accept the appointment unless the authority was granted an independent budget that would ensure its statutory and economic independence.