MKs: Traffic Court Backups Mean Less Road Safety

YERUSHALAYIM -
The scene of a road accident (Ichud Hatzalah)
The scene of a road accident. (Ichud Hatzalah)

In the wake of the bus accident that took the lives of six people on Road 1 just under two weeks ago, the Knesset Economic Committee has been holding hearings about the causes of road accidents in Israel. And while there are many targets to point fingers at, one perhaps surprising cause is an apparent lack of enforcement of laws against speeding, and a years-long backup of cases in traffic court that essentially guarantees that drivers who demand their day in court after committing a moving violation will have their case thrown out of court, or basically ignored and filed away as unjudicable.

“The legal system is failing us on a daily basis,” said MK Eitan Cabel (Zionist Camp) in remarks quoted by Channel Ten. “According to the police themselves, the difficulty in getting cases before a judge is making it much harder for them to enforce traffic laws.”

According to Channel Ten, there are currently 14,000 moving violations that are awaiting a hearing before a traffic judge – and there are no judges in sight to hear those cases. Those are just the most serious cases; tens of thousands of other cases are simply dropped because of overcrowded court calendars.

In addition, the report said, police themselves, convinced that the cases won’t be heard anyway, are basically ignoring reports from speed cameras, or are setting them to catch only drivers who drive far above the speed limit. In lieu of court cases, traffic court officials encourage offenders to “plea bargain” – settling for a fine, and waiving points for offenses. If a driver refuses to make a deal, his case is referred to the court calendar – with a date to be set only later when the court’s schedule clears up, in many cases effectively “disappearing” into oblivion.

In response to the report, the Court Authority said that the data was selective, and that not all traffic courts around the country were as crowded, since police enforced the laws to different degrees in different parts of the country.

According to statistics released this week, 26 people have been killed in road accidents so far in 2016, with 107 badly hurt. There have been 906 reported accidents since the beginning of 2016, with 23 of them considered “very serious” by authorities, the Central Bureau of Statistics said.