One Man’s Tragedy Saves Many Lives

April 2, 2013

Moderator's note: This is the last blog entry in Dr. Winston's weekly series about her recent trip to Israel. For her earlier entries, see parts one, two, and three

Last month, I was the guest of Chairman Avi Na’or, CEO Shmuel Aboav, Dr. Tsippy Lotan and other road safety heroes at the Or Yarok, the leading road safety organization in Israel. What an amazing experience and an honor. My trip included a speaking engagement at the Or Yarok national road safety conference and involved meetings with Or Yarok researchers, academics, entrepeneurs and others from around Israel and leaders in governmental agencies (including the Israel National Road Safety Authority and the Israel Institute for Health Policy).

Highway system in Israel

Or Yarok is an NGO founded and largely funded by Avi Naor, whose son, Ran, died at age 20 in a motor vehicle crash.  From his grief, Avi pledged to improve road safety and he and his organization have been instrumental in raising public awareness, passing laws and improving safety behaviors. In fact, Israel experienced their lowest number of road traffic fatalities in 2012, a 25% reduction from the previous year, making it among the top ten countries in advanced road safety. Quite an accomplishment in less than two decades!

More than 1000 people attended the Or Yarok conference which brought together all parties in Israel who are involved in road safety – from officials at the Ministry of Transportation and the National Road Safety Authority, to Israeli police, researchers and academicians, and safety experts from Israel and around the world. In addition to my talk on the parents’ role in young driver safety, international speakers, Jean Todt and Michelle Yeoh from Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, presented the global road safety perspective

The urgency with which Or Yarok and Israel confront road safety is palpable and is at the core of their success.  Or Yarok promotes a broad, evidence-based platform, including urging new product development, laws and policies, road infrastructure (see photos), and policing, sponsoring world-class research, while leading community engagement, educational programs and media outreach.  They have over 5000 volunteers engaged in community road safety activities.  One amazing program is Or Yarok L’Chaim (Green Light for Life), a program that involves volunteers who meet with every new teen driver in Israel and their families to teach about driving safety and the importance of accompanied, practice driving. Another community program that I particularly like is “Lela”, an educational program about road safety for preschoolers. Run by “volunteer grandparents” who “adopt” classes and come each week, children participate in a road safety curriculum, aided by the Lela doll.   

Lela doll

I look forward to my next visit with this inspiring organization! Mazel tov (congratulations) on your success, Or Yarok!

Ayalon Highway, Israel