Zelda Harris
Five on the 100 aliyah from UK list!

Plethora of road deaths

If you are satisfied with the way in which the recent panic over the rising deaths and serious injuries on Israel’s roads is being reported, then read no more. I am dissatisfied, to say the least since each time another crisis develops and panic ensues, the Minister responsible for life and death on our roads sees fit to lay blame on anyone and everyone, instead of taking some on himself.

Minister Katz is the ultimate controller of what happens on our roads including the fact that when reforms in transport were made in the cities, the local authorities namely the  IRIYA had no say in what would be beneficial for the local residents, especially in the periphery.

He is above everyone, including those organisations (only Or Yarok and Anashim b’Adom exist today) which voluntarily operate projects for road safety.

Having had 15 years in the business of helping to save lives and preventing injuries on our roads, as well as aiding and supporting the families of victims of road carnage I feel the time has come to speak out.

Around several months ago(I cannot be accurate) there was an across the board, media exposure on all aspects of road death including horrific images. Witness accounts on radio and TV, powerful interviews by Orly and Guy and Reshet Bet and so on. Three TV channels competed with each other to get the highest rating for their graphic exposure.

Together with Prof Elihu Richter of Hadassah School of Public Health, I tried to bring a message across that the exaggeration of the situation would not change anything except for, the granting of a huge additional budget to Minister Katz for an emergency road safety campaign, without drastic changes elsewhere. Noone showed the slightest interest. The media had a ball and nothing changed for the better.

One cannot delve into past experience and say “I was right then,  during the height of my organizations’ activities from 1993-2006. Metuna stood for the following; reducing deaths by reducing speed was one: Speed Kills, Kill Speed. Compulsory bicycle helmets was another, increasing the railways and addressing the education in and outside of schools and safety within the towns. Finally SEATBELTS on school buses.

Projects which we were able to complete were successful, many in sectors which hitherto had no prior encouragement.  The Netanya project in 1996 directed by the late Prof Gerry Ben David and run by Avi Elharar was acclaimed for its results but never carried forward by the powers that be.   Obtaining seat belts on children’s busses is a story in itself.

Much of our help was from the British Embassy in Tel Aviv. Their support brought  Frank Nunneley an expert in traffic and pedestrian safety in towns, to Israel.  Following his appearance at our annual conference in Jerusalem, Rav Yitshak Levy who was Minister of Transport at the time took a team of  Israeli experts to the UK and thus the advent of roundabouts and speed bumps to reduce speed in towns.

The same was true of our success together with Anashim B’Adom to get a law passed in the Knesset for bicycle helmets, which would become compulsory for adults and children.  Only to be torpedoed by Sheli Yakimovitch and the result was”only for children”

It’s almost impossible to “fine” a child. Under age 16 he/she does not carry a Teudat Zehut. A policeman would have to physically accompany one to his /her home and find a parent and charge them. (electric bikes notwithstanding?)

So now we come to the latest turn of events. It’s monstrous that kids on electric bikes which like a vehicle can be deadly were not regulated by age.  The fact that no one took responsibility for the all too obvious outcome. Noone spoke out, right at the start of the importing. Had my grandchildren been of an age when it applied to them, I probably would have taken the issue to heart. Metuna sadly ceased to function overtly, when I handed over my responsibility, due to extreme personal circumstances.

I remember when there were TV games about killing and there was one which used car rage as a tool to excite players. Metuna my organization stopped the sale of those evil games.

We were also a watchdog and we demonstrated and petitioned and lobbied, all voluntarily. We had members all over the country who paid a small subscription to keep our office going,  it was money well spent. WE also were fortunate in having a body of outstanding advisors whose words too, were not heeded.

Times changed and along came a well-meaning powerful person who openly declared that he would be the number one address outside the government, to ensure that everything was done to improve driver behaviour, not after the event but before, to preserve lives on the roads.

There are no more lobbies, demonstrations, petitions, no more voices. The result has been deadly and will continue to be so unless there is a radical change.

Perhaps it will only come once the politicians realise what a debt they owe to loyal citizens, not patrons who are self seeking. When they and the general public wake up to the fact that many things are breaking down. Cruel laws are being enacted both affecting us and those around us, which have nothing to do with every day needs of welfare, services, and safety, not only on the roads.

Licensing and Insurance as well as tuition and guidance from experts, would have been a fine start in controlling this madness called electric bikes, the car drivers are usually not the culprits in this lethal game, neither are our kids.

About the Author
Zelda Harris first came to Israel 1949, aged 18. After living through the hardships of the nascent state, she returned to England in 1966. She was a founding member of the Women's Campaign for Soviet Jewry. In 1978, she returned with her family to Israel and has been active in various spheres of Israeli Society since. Together with the late Chaim Herzog, she founded CCC for Electoral Reform, was the Director of BIPAC in Israel, and a co-founder of Metuna, the Organisation for Road Safety, which received the Speaker of Knesset Quality of Life Award for saving lives on the roads and prevention of serious injury. She is now a peace activist, blogger for Times of Israel and is writing her life story.
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