2021 was a challenging year on the roads, during which 361 people were killed in road accidents in Israel. This number embodies an alarming 11% increase in fatalities compared to 2020. In addition, we have seen a large increase in casualties among riders in two-wheeled vehicles in the past year. Another worrying trend was recorded in the truck sector, which in 2021 were involved in a more significant number of fatal accidents. Unfortunately, there are still no data on the leading causes of road accidents in 2021. Still, there are indications that cellular distraction was a significant variable in many accidents. It is possible that life in the shadow of Covid-19 also indirectly contributes to increasing the phenomenon.
The bottom line of the RALBAD (National Road Safety Authority) summary report, published on 31/12/2021, is bleak: During 2021, 361 people were killed in road accidents on Israeli roads. 11% increase in fatalities and a 16% increase in the number of fatal accidents compared to the year before it (2020), and the largest increase in deaths in the last decade.
A sharp increase in the number of two-wheelers
One of the most worrying trends emerging from the RALBD report is the steep rise in the number of riders in two-wheeled vehicles killed during 2021 – 84 motorcyclists and scooter riders – 43% increase in the number of casualties in this category who already account for 23% of all fatalities in road accidents. In addition,11 regular cyclists, 14 electric cyclists and 4 electric scooter riders were killed in road accidents last year. Regarding the increasing involvement of electric two-wheelers, the data only confirm the feeling of everyone who has been around the Tel Aviv metropolitan area in the past year – the electric two-wheelers in the city are running wildly and dangerously.
Another worrying trend is heavy trucks, with an 18% increase in fatalities in accidents involving trucks in the over 3.5-tonne category.
Young drivers and self-accidents
This year, 56 young drivers were killed on the roads. This number reflects a 42% increase over the average in the two preceding years. Another disturbing statistic, some of which overlaps with the issue of young drivers, is known as “self-accidents”, in which only the vehicle of the injured driver was involved.
In 2021 25% of private car deaths and 35% of two-wheeled vehicles deaths were self-inflicted, leading us to the direct causes of accidents.
As of today, some of this information is not yet working. However, the data tell us that in 19% of fatal accidents, the direct cause was a failure to give a right-of-way to a pedestrian; In 12%, the immediate reason was disobedience to red light; And at 9% excessive speed. But presumably, in a substantial proportion of cases, there was another reason, which is not currently seen in statistics, but studies from around the world point to it as a significant factor in road accidents – cellular distractions.
The reason drivers do not notice pedestrians or do not see that the light at the traffic light is red is that they are busy with something else – on their phone, for example.
The indirect contribution of the Covid-19
Driving distractions have been bothering the authorities for more than a decade. That is why laws have been enacted against it that prohibit using a cell phone while driving without the purpose of a call (using a hands-free) or operating navigation software.
Despite this legislation and the extensive enforcement operations carried out by the traffic police to eradicate the phenomenon, cellular distractions are still very much present. Therefore, it is likely that part of the increase in the number of fatal road accidents is due to the phenomenon, leading us to the negative role Covid-19 has played in this regard.
When Covid-19 came into our lives and shut down the economy, it had a welcome side effect. In early 2020 and especially during the closure periods, we saw a significant decrease in road accidents. Unfortunately, this decrease probably only reflected the reduction in traffic volume during the closure period because when the restrictions were removed, quickly the gap was reduced. Since then, the number of fatal accidents has only been increasing. Is it related to Covid-19? It is no secret that the plague and social isolation have increased public anxiety and nervousness. In addition, Covid-19 has increased its dependence on cellular use and the phenomenon of addiction to social networks. In the first quarter of 2021, there was an increase of almost 50% in cellular surfing. It can only be assumed that some of this surfing also surfed while driving.
Zoom out of the way
If there is one app that symbolizes more than anything the days of the Covid-19, it is probably Zoom software, which allows many participating video calls from your computer or cellphone.
Zoom goes into every home in Israel and quite noticeably, many drivers have taken advantage of the travel time from home to the office and back to make zoom appointments. Most of them probably did not think they were doing something wrong, but in practice, a driving Zoom session is a bad idea that steals the driver’s focus from the road.
We have no data on the dimensions of the phenomenon, but most likely, this new and top-rated app has also taken a toll on the roads.
What is the solution to cellular distractions while driving? Unfortunately, legislation and enforcement have failed to eradicate or control the phenomenon, and it may be necessary to stop looking for the solution under this flashlight.
However, there is one arena in the fight against cellular distractions where there is room for optimism – the technological arena. Over the past year, the use of the SaverOne system to prevent cellular distractions has expanded. The SaverOne system is an Israeli technological development that deals with the problem in an original way – the founders of SaverOne understood that using a cellphone is a form of addiction. Therefore any solution based on the goodwill of the driver will probably be doomed to failure.
SaverOne’s technology neutralizes the human factor by simply “taking over” the driver’s device while driving and preventing it from using prohibited applications. For vehicle fleets or companies operating public or work vehicles (such as those heavy trucks whose involvement in fatal accidents has increased by 18% during 2021), this solution may prevent the phenomenon and its tragic consequences.