Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s Speech at the “Green Light” Conference
Photo by GPO 

Chairman of the Jewish Agency, Mr. Ze’ev Bielski,
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transportation and Traffic Safety, Mr. Shaul Mofaz,
Minister Itzhak Cohen,
Inter-Ministerial Coordinator for Traffic Safety of the French Government, Ms. Cecile Petti,
The Honorable Major General Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of General Staff,
Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen,
The Honorable Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Mr. Ron Huldai,
Director General of the National Authority for Traffic Safety,
And last but not least, Chairman of the “Green Light” Organization and its founder, my friend Avi Naor,
Distinguished Guests,

At the outset, I would like to do something almost unorthodox in this country – I wish to congratulate the opposition MK, my friend Gilad Erdan, who tonight will receive the Man of the Decade Award in Traffic Safety for his energetic and determined activities for traffic safety and saving lives.  Well done Gilad.

In approximately one hour, voting in the Knesset on the 2008 Budget will commence.  The Budget which I hope and believe will be approved is the continuation of the responsible policy which led to economic growth.  This budget includes the allocation of significant resources to comprehensive plans to reduce social gaps in the country and improve the quality of life for all citizens of Israel.  First and foremost, the Budget provides an appropriate answer to the matter of education and the concern for children and teens at risk.

Naturally, my first duty is to be there, but I asked the Knesset and the Speaker, Ms. Itzik, to make a special effort to postpone the beginning of the final part of the discussion, so that I could attend this Conference to provide a personal expression of the importance the Government of Israel and I attach to this struggle and the activities of the “Green Light” Organization, which stands at the forefront of the war against traffic accidents.

Twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine – one number which better than anything else expresses the entire story.

In the case before us, this is an especially painful number: 29,679 – this is an inconceivable and unacceptable number of people – babies and children, boys and men, girls and mothers, the elderly – all killed, as of the beginning of this week, in traffic accidents on the roads of Israel since the establishment of the State of Israel.

Twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine tragedies;
Twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine families whose worlds were destroyed;
Twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine lives abruptly ended;
And primarily: twenty-nine thousand, six hundred and seventy-nine pointless deaths which could have been prevented.

Several years ago, Israel placed third in the world regarding the scope of traffic accidents relative to number of vehicles, and I believe this fact should disturb all the citizens of Israel.

Over the years, there was not a Government of Israel which did not invest a great deal in the struggle against the slaughter on the roads.  Unfortunately, those investments did not always lead to real achievements.  My Government resolved to allocate unprecedented resources in the fields of transportation and infrastructure, out of an understanding that an advanced, safe and flowing transportation system, which operates on modern and accessible channels, is a central component in our struggle against accidents.

Over the past few years, the State of Israel has invested billions of shekels in advancing dozens of projects which present a significant breakthrough in transportation infrastructure – on land, in the air and at sea.

The Ministry of Transportation, which last year changed its name to the “Ministry of Transportation and Traffic Safety”, and which is headed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister Shaul Mofaz, is occupied with implementing long-term development programs, which propose solutions to transportation problems with which every modern country must deal, and narrowing gaps in infrastructure which for years has been neglected.

In addition, at the beginning of this year, a new national authority for traffic safety began operating, which for the first time presents measured targets for reducing the number of accidents and limits their damage, and operates with an unprecedented budget, as Avi Naor correctly mentioned, of over half a billion shekels in order to confront the challenges it must face.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

What is especially troubling about this matter is the lack of coordination between our investment and between the number of traffic accidents.  Unfortunately, this cannot be solved by magic, because – as proven in numerous studies – the human factor was and will remain the decisive influence on the number of accidents, and thereby the number of wounded.

It is precisely for this reason that it is important to continue working constantly to raise the issue of safety to the public agenda, to engrave the safety messages in the consciousness of each and every driver, to ensure that any person sitting behind the wheel takes responsibility for his or her behavior on the roads, and if necessary – to change it.

The education system is also a partner in the considerable effort to assimilate a different way of behaving – calmer and more respectful – among pedestrians and future drivers.  More and more high school students who receive their licenses are being educated in a responsible, mature and non-adventurous driving culture.

The Government of Israel and the official bodies active in the struggle against slaughter on the roads have set an achievable goal: to reduce by six percent per annum the number of deaths on the roads.

I believe with all my heart that under the firm and uncompromising leadership of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transportation and Traffic Safety, Shaul Mofaz, we can achieve this goal.

On our path to this national goal, on our path to generating real change in the attitudes of drivers in Israel, we must remember one important fact: any achievement we mark for ourselves, however modest, means saving lives.

Any percentage we succeed in reducing from the horrifying and disturbing numbers of those injured in traffic accidents means fewer deaths, fewer disabled, less suffering.

We must remember that traffic accidents – even those which are not fatal – extract an additional toll, an economic cost, and it is permissible and important to remember this as well: over the past few years, the damages from accidents stood at no less than NIS 12 billion that the Israeli economy lost.

Distinguished guests,

The “Green Light” Organization is marking its 10th year of activity dedicated to this higher purpose: reducing the number of those injured in traffic accidents and creating real change in the driving culture of Israel.

Under the leadership of the Chairman of the Organization and its founder, Avi Naor, father of the late Ran, “Green Light” has succeeded in creating impressive change in the public consciousness regarding the struggle against accidents, both through direct activities and by being an energizing and enriching factor for other bodies, governmental and non-governmental, which are active in this important field.

I thank all those who are active in “Green Light”, the outgoing Director General, Yehezkel Meshita and the incoming Director General, my friend Shmuel Abuhav, who brings vast experience in various and diverse fields of public service.  I thank you all for this important Conference as well, which has already become a tradition and constitutes a central aspect of the worthy activities of the organization, as well as for the important initiatives the organization has led throughout the years – in research, information, training and even in advancing legislation.

It is only through complete and comprehensive cooperation between the national bodies charged with this subject and the voluntary organizations that we will succeed, with G-d’s help, to achieve the hoped-for results.

During last year’s Conference, I declared that we would act to reduce the number of those killed on the roads in 2007.  Indeed, your comprehensive activities and considerable influence, as well as the activities of the National Authority for Traffic Safety, have led to a reduction in the number of injured and dead, but the situation is still far from satisfactory.

Of special concern is the increase in the number of deaths among those who do not drive – whether pedestrians or motorcyclists – all those whose lives start beyond the yellow line of the shoulders – and the driving public is charged with an additional responsibility to take care with their own lives as well.

In conclusion, I wish to appeal from this stage to the citizens of Israel:
We can continue discussing investing in the roads, lighting and infrastructure, trains which will reduce the need for private cars; however, none of this can compare to your commitment, that of the drivers.

Each time you push down on the accelerator, any time you want to change lanes, think of your loved ones, of those who are waiting for you at home, of those who do not care if you arrive home several minutes later – only that you arrive safely.  The steering wheel in your hands is responsibility in your hands.

Never forget this when you are on the roads.  Together we will prove that we can behave differently, that with combined strength, we will generate the longed-for change on the roads.

Thank you.