In 2012, 278 Israelis were killed in traffic accidents – the lowest number in the past 50 years, and significantly below the important psychological barrier of 300 killed. Transportation experts attributed the reduction to increased enforcement of traffic laws and the completion of a number of important road improvement projects.
The number represent a 25% decline in the number of dead from traffic accidents in 2011. The rate has fallen consistently by about at least 20% in each of the last four years, Transport Ministry officials said.
The sharp reduction, which surprised many experts, came despite the relaxation of speed rules on many key Israeli roads. Earlier this year, for example, the maximum speed limit on much of the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road (Road 1) was raised from 100 kmh (62.5 mph) to 110 kmh (69 mph). The results, which seem to indicate that the connection between speed and safe driving is very far from what most safety experts currently believe, will be studied intensely, experts said.
Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said that the completion of a number of important road projects, in which sharp curves were eliminated, passing lanes added and expanded, and signage upgraded, contributed a great deal to the reduction. Another factor was the increased vigilance of traffic police, and especially the installation of a network of high-resolution cameras on many roads where accidents had been a major problem. It appears, Katz said, that the cameras, which can read the license plates of many cars at the same time, had had the desired effect in tempering the speed of many drivers.
Ironically, however, as the announcement on the lower numbers was about to be made, two more victims were added to the count on Sunday. A 59 year old woman in the south was killed in the car she was driving, along with her 31 year old son, on an unimproved road in the Lachish area.