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Curbing Traffic Accidents in Israel

A new system of computerized infra-red traffic monitors developed at the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) is expected to drastically improve Israel’s horrendous record of highway accident fatalities, which is one of the highest per capita in the world, the Friends of the JCT reported here Thursday.

The device, known as “black boxes,” is presently being tested in Israel and shows great promise of rapidly curbing dangerous driving habits, according to a report to the Cabinet in Jerusalem by the Israel Center for Driving Research and In jury Prevention. It consists of an electro-optic traffic monitor with a built-in video camera designed by a JCT team headed by Joseph Bodenheimer and Gerry Ben-David.

The devices are mounted between pairs of 20-foot-high pylons on each side of the highway. The monitors provide computerized photographic print-outs of every vehicle using the highways. The print-out records the speed of the vehicle and the distance between it and the vehicle immediately ahead.

The data enable police to record speeding and tail-gating violations, two of the principal causes of highway accidents. According to the police, the system is more accurate and flexible than radar monitoring.

HORRENDOUS RECORD OF ACCIDENTS

Since the State of Israel was founded in 1948, some 14,500 persons have been killed in road accidents and 185,000 injured. This is significantly higher per kilometer travelled than in most developed countries.

Traffic deaths in Israel in fact are the principal cause of death among young people and the main cause of brain damage, paralysis and other permanent disabilities. More Israelis have been killed or injured on highways than in all of the country’s wars since 1948.

Drunk driving is not the major problem in Israel. The Center for Driving Research attributes the high accident rate to dangerous but preventable driving habits, the worst being excessive speed, reckless passing and tail-gating.

According to Ben-David, “We don’t have to spend millions of dollars and wait years before we see change in driving habits. The best way to prevent accidents and to save lives is to make the drivers afraid to drive unsafely.”

Apparently, Israelis at the wheel fear traffic summonses more than the consequences of reckless driving. An international conference on driver safety will be held at the JCT in Jerusalem in January 1987.

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