Compared to children in Israel overall, a chareidi child is significantly more likely to be the victim of a traffic accident – in fact, more than two and a half times more likely, according to statistics presented to the Knesset Economic Committee in a hearing on the matter.
While sociologists and traffic experts have pointed to numerous factors, including the high degree of crowding in many chareidi urban areas and the fact that the chareidi families simply have significantly more children than other communities, MK Rabbi Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) does not believe that the current situation is a force majeure; with proper education, chareidi children can be taught to effectively protect themselves, even in areas with high levels of traffic.
According to the statistics, the number of chareidi children injured outside schools is significantly higher than the number injured in other areas, indicating that there is a lack of traffic enforcement near schools, as drivers fail to take caution when children are about. In addition, a significant number of children are injured on school buses or vans that get into accidents – indicating that the authorities are not careful enough when deciding to grant a driver a license to transport children.
But one of the problems that could easily be fixed, said MK Rabbi Maklev – who heads the Committee – is that the government has not provided sufficient funds for road safety education programs in schools overall, and especially chareidi schools. At one time, funding for such education projects was significantly higher than it is today, but the funding has eroded over the years – especially in chareidi schools, where budget cuts have eliminated road safety education programs altogether.
“Today there are 70,000 children in Israel who are not exposed to road safety education at all,” he told the Committee. “The increase in the number of accidents involving children in the chareidi sector is very worrying, and the reasons for this are due to a lack of traffic enforcement, poor road and traffic infrastructure, and a lack of awareness.” While fixing the former two will be a years-long process, increasing awareness is a matter of funding educational programs, especially for children, MK Rabbi Maklev noted.
“Our responsibility is to deal with the problem in the proper way and reduce the number of accident victims,” MK Rabbi Maklev told the Committee. “The national authorities must keep in mind the Chareidi public when distributing resources for education, and work together with local officials to develop appropriate awareness programs.”