State Comptroller Releases Report on Road Safety Management in Israel – Israel News

“Israel’s roads are a ticking time bomb. Since the country’s establishment, approximately 33,000 people have died in road accidents. Behind every dead and every injured person stands a family whose life was destroyed. In addition, the economic crisis costs road accidents to approximately 16 billion shekels annually,” state Comptroller Matanyahu Englman warned in a scathing road safety audit report.

Englman says Israeli governments have failed to deal with road accidents for years. While the number of road accidents in Israel has increased over the past decade, it has decreased in leading European countries. “The budgets of the National Road Safety Authority have been cut, many traffic police positions remain vacant and the government is not meeting its targets in this area,” he noted.

“Road accidents are not an inevitable fate. Addressing this issue must be a top priority for Transport Minister Miri Regev and the entire government. The government should target zero road deaths, as is common in leading European countries. “

The report found that while fatalities in European countries fell by about 22% in the last decade, in Israel they increased by 16% between 2012 and 2022. According to Or Yarok data, this upward trend continued into early 2024, with the death toll approximately 25% higher than last year over the same period.

Traffic jams on the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv. (source: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)

“The data shows that various actions taken by governments over the last decade have not had a significant impact on the scale of the phenomenon and have not contributed to reducing the number of deaths and injuries in road accidents,” Englman continues.

“Addressing road safety issues is piecemeal and falls to multiple government bodies, including the Ministry of Transport, the National Road Safety Authority, the Traffic Division of the Israel Police, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the judiciary and local authorities.”

Problems that have led to a large number of road accidents

According to Englman, success in the fight against traffic accidents requires a leading and authoritative body and the establishment of a strategic budget plan that includes clear and measurable goals. The report also shows that when comparing the change in the number of serious injuries between 2012 and 2022, Israel ranks penultimate among 29 European countries.

While the number of serious injuries in Israel increased by approximately 21%, most countries saw the rate decline, with the average for European Union countries surveyed showing a decline of 18%. An analysis of road traffic fatality data in Israel shows that approximately 64% of fatalities occur in interurban areas and approximately 36% in urban areas. Less than one third of accidents occur on rural roads.

Age groups that are particularly susceptible to serious injury relative to their share of the population are young people aged 15-24 and people aged 65 and over. The rate of fatalities and serious injuries in road accidents among people aged 65 and over was higher in 2013-2022 than the share of this group in the population.

The average annual rate of death and serious injury among all fatalities aged 65 and over was approximately 20%, well above their share of the population, which is approximately 11.5%. Relative to population share, Arab male drivers were involved in more crashes than Jewish male drivers across all age groups between 2013 and 2019, with the difference most noticeable in younger age groups.

The auditor found that the information collected by the police on road accidents is partial and focuses mainly on serious and fatal accidents. The police do not collect complete data on minor accidents, accidents involving only property damage or accidents involving only non-motorized vehicles (in 2022, there were approximately 2,550 serious and fatal accidents, and approximately 45,000 minor accidents each year are not tested).

One reason for the partial data collection is the shortage of police investigators tasked with investigating road accidents. It also warns that police do not use advanced accident scene documentation systems, such as dedicated cameras that can capture the scene from multiple angles before the scene is cleared.

In 2021, the Ministry of Transport and the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) prepared a national road safety plan (“50 by 30 plan”), which set the goal of halving the number of serious injuries from road accidents in Israel by 2030 compared to data for 2019. However, despite the preparation of the plan in accordance with the government’s decision, which is to serve as a long-term plan for the promotion and improvement of road traffic safety, and despite investing significant resources in its preparation and taking into account a long list of tasks to be implemented, it was not possible to implement it. they do not include cost estimates or budget sources for activities.

The audit also found that since the establishment of the NSRA, the budgets for which it is responsible and allocated to other entities have decreased significantly, from approximately NIS 382 million in 2008 to approximately NIS 141 million in 2022. The audit also found that the effectiveness Law enforcement in Israel is suboptimal, partly due to lack of resources.

Despite government decisions in 2005 and 2017 to strengthen the traffic police and increase the number of officers, the audit found that police presence was consistently insufficient. From 2017 to June 2023, the number of eligible positions in the Road Traffic Department, in particular in the State Road Police, has not changed and amounts to 1,044. The Traffic Department has 264 police cars, but due to staff shortages, only 120 police cars work on each shift. .

The auditor also examined police enforcement efforts in the field and found that data showed that police actions over the past decade had not improved the number of accidents and casualties.

The number of annual reports of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs has decreased by almost 55% since 2014, from 9,771 to 4,422 in 2021. Compared to European countries, seat belt wearing rates in Israel are low, especially in the back of vehicle seats (around 70%), and particularly in Arab society – around 64% in the back seats and 68% in the front seats compared to 91% in the front seats in the general population. The number of reports issued every year is high (approx. 121,000 in 2021) and indicates the scale of the problem.

In 2021, there was a record number of license suspensions (approx. 19.6 thousand cases), and in approximately 75% of cases (approx. 14.6 thousand cases) the licenses were not returned as required. The audit also showed that in the years 2021–2019, on average, approximately PLN 5,000 was spent. reports annually to drivers whose license has been revoked and who continue to drive illegally. “This indicates a widespread phenomenon,” warned the State Comptroller.

Englman goes on to say that since 2016, the number of traffic judges has remained at 40, but the caseload has increased by approximately 40%. As a result, the workload of each judge has increased. On average, around 136,000 traffic cases were initiated each year between 2018 and 2021.

On average, approximately 140,000 traffic cases are brought each year, and each judge hears approximately 3,300 cases per year. Risk centers on interurban roads are identified based on the multiplication of accidents at these points or on short road sections. For this reason, roads with a high number of fatal accidents but which are scattered are not included in the treatment of risk centers. These include roads 71, 232, 55, 90, 60 and 264.

For example, Highway 90, which crosses Israel from Metula to Eilat, is characterized by many safety defects, such as unregulated entrances to the settlements located along it, narrow curbs, lack of a barrier separating routes on parts of it, dark and unlit sections, and cracked road sections with holes and recesses.

Between 2003 and 2020, there were 2,480 road accidents, killing 251 people, of which about a third occurred on the southern part of the road, between the Arava junction and Eilat. The state auditor further warned that vulnerabilities were found indicating the inability to enforce the integrity of vehicles, safety officers and cargo transportation.

The state auditor also warns that gaps have been identified indicating a failure to adequately enforce vehicle fitness, safety inspector supervision and cargo transportation. “During the inspection, the condition of airbags and other vehicle components is not checked. The Supervision Department at the Ministry of Transport does not check the weight of trucks because there are no weighing devices,” the inspection report further stated.

The Israeli police responded

The audit report raises important and central issues that impact society as a whole and most of them deserve significant attention. As part of its ongoing fight against road fatalities and enforcement of traffic laws, the Israeli Police considers road safety to be of paramount importance and invests significant resources and efforts in enforcement, as well as preventive measures and education, aimed at changing driving culture and reducing the number of road accidents .

The role of the police is to enforce traffic regulations, assuming that rational enforcement will lead to changes in road standards and, consequently, to a reduction in the number of road accidents. Each year, the Traffic Division analyzes the previous year’s data, focusing on understanding the factors contributing to road accidents and dividing accident-prone roads, including the accident-affected population, by region and sector. Based on the findings, detailed action plans for the next year are formulated.

In accordance with the work plans, the police and all units of the road traffic department carry out activities on communication routes, focusing law enforcement on “consequence” crimes, strengthening management and deterrence by exhausting legal procedures and increasing the use of administrative powers (revocation of licenses of police officers, suspension ), promoting law enforcement procedures, increasing presence and visibility by deploying mobile units on accident-prone and high-traffic routes, strengthening communication with stakeholders and providing information to increase public awareness and trust.

It should be emphasized that enforcement activities are only one aspect of a number of activities necessary to reduce the number of road accidents. Collaboration with other government agencies on education, communication and law enforcement is also necessary.

Regarding staff shortages, it should be noted that the Israeli Police has intensified the recruitment of police officers in recent months, and the placement of traffic police officers is a high priority.

Regarding the transfer of data, it should be noted that the police regularly, in accordance with the law, transmit information and data on road accidents to the Road Safety Authority and various organizations working in this field.