Monday, October 10, 2005

The Real Terror

.. is on the roads. This weekend a maniac with 19 previous traffic offenses killed four people and created in the process five orphans. This is the third accident with multiple fatalities in the last few months being caused by a reckless driver known to the authorities as such.

Here is what I wrote to the Ha'aretz editors in response to their report (see the link above).

Quote from Ha'aretz:
Central district police superintendent Yigal Hadad said yesterday it was "a grave and very serious accident. The driver is a lawbreaker who killed four people and left five orphans. Such a man must stand up to the law in all its severity," he said.

The value of such post-mortem statements is cosmetic at best. As a police volunteer I can attest that I frequently encounter drivers with revoked licenses during traffic patrols, who are not even afraid or ashamed to admit right away that they are driving without a valid license. The willingness of the administration and courts to deal with rogue drivers in an effective way is minimal and limited to public relations damage control once a serious accident has happened.
The basic fault is in the ideology of a populist law enforcement. There are laws against every imaginable offense, but effective prosecution is limited to cases of "high public interest" - and traffic offenses short of manslaughter are not in this category. Too many people commit them regularly and changing this would mean to step onto the toes of the general public, something our usually spineless politicians are not prepared to do. But without political back-up also the courts and even more so the police are afraid to do the right thing and ending up scapegoats for the resulting public anger.
Every parent knows that you can not tell a child that stealing is bad, but if you steal only small things, then never mind, I'll look the other way. You will get punished only for serious theft.

Nevertheless, this is exactly how Israeli drivers are being educated - never mind about the speed limit within the cities, never mind about parking in a red-white zone or on a pedestrian crossing, never mind even about overtaking a car stopping at a pedestrian crossing, and so on, and so on. All these are traffic offenses which can get people killed, but as long as you don't run a stop sign or a traffic light (defined as serious offenses because they frequently cause serious accidents) nothing will happen to you.

What drivers learn very quickly is as long as you don't kill anybody, we don't really care about you being a crazy maniac.

Therefore the police force on the roads is generally unmotivated to even try to catch repeat offenders. This has nothing to do with insufficient resources, as police commanders usually claim. The prove is in the story: The killer of Highway 1 was caught 19 times before his final atrocity destroyed two families. We know exactly who they are, and they are nothing else but ticking bombs, randomly taking the lives of innocent bystanders.
We will continue to see terrible accidents caused by rogue drivers until politicians, courts and police commanders move from lip service to action and put a repeat offenders behind bars. I pray for the day to come, when a driver smiles at me saying "I don't have a license anymore" and I can smile back, put him into handcuffs and know that from here on it is straight to an express court hearing and jail. Until then we will loose more people in traffic accidents than due to terror attacks every single year.

This one I didn't write to Haaretz (because they wouldn't print it anyway): My suggestion for immediate and drastic improvement of road safety: Use targeted killings for serious repeat offenders, just like we do it in Gaza with the other terrorists!

Okay, okay, I agree, no can do, don't kill them, but imagine the look on the face of a traffic maniac stepping out of his house in the morning and finding his car blown to pieces by a missile fired during the night from a IDF helicopter! Now that would be an effective measure...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Happy New Year!

This October is heaven for workers and hell for employers. Three major holidays fall into this month, and none of them is on a weekend. The New Year (Rosh Ha'Shana), Atonement Day (Yom Kippur) and Thanks Giving (well, kind of, anyway, Succot) cocktail will create havoc in the economy and on the roads.

It starts with the traffic jams. All highways, especially those leading from the center towards the Galilee, are totally blocked from the second the kids get to leave school until 4 AM next morning. I will never understand why everybody has to spend the holidays up north. Somebody's relatives have to live in the south!

Then comes the festive dinner. A living room packed with people beyond the structural limit of the floor, an endless flow of dishes from the kitchen onto the plates, kids shouting, dogs barking, parents trying to outscream the kids. Occasionally a short moment of civilized silence, and then the battle noise starts again. At some point things slow down a little, the guests are just too stuffed to show normal vital signs. Then the crucial decision: Skip desert, run to the car and maybe make it back home before the traffic jams start again, or hold out until 4 AM and return after the jams. In other words, can you keep eating until dawn?

Then comes the bad conscience. Again we eat much too much. Why can we not skip first dish, soup, bread, salad and whatever else comes before the main course? How long will we fight to loose that needlessly acquired ballast? Thank God for Yom Kippur - this year we will actually want to fast! How would we otherwise be back in shape for Succot? Gosh, just think of all that food...

And finally, the New Year's resolution: Next Year we'll behave like responsible adults and say no to the Gefillte Fish!.

Yeah, sure. Happy New Year!