“Children cook and die and our job is to protect them”

A baby - a child in a car - a toddler

The Knesset’s Economy Committee, chaired by MK David Bitan, today (Tuesday) unanimously approved the order submitted by the Ministry of Transportation, which extends the validity of the temporary order dealing with the enforcement of the regulations to prevent children from being forgotten until February 29, 2024. In addition, at the request of Knesset member Yonatan Mesharki and other members of the Knesset, a proposal was made to order that over 20 children have been forgotten and over 900 children have been locked in vehicles and rescued since the beginning of the year .

Chairman Bitan said that in order for the provision to be effective, it should be included in some of the tests that the licensing institute must perform, and asked the Ministry of Transportation to examine how to implement this. “Children cook and die and our job is to look after them,” he said.

As a reminder, in the previous Knesset, the Economic Committee approved amendments to the traffic regulations, according to which those who drive a child up to the age of 4 in a private vehicle will be required to install a system to prevent forgetting. This amendment was established as a temporary order, until February 29, 2024. At the same time, an amendment was established to the traffic order, which states that the penalty for transporting a child without such a system is a fine of NIS 250 and 4 points. The order determining the fine was set as a temporary order until the end of this month – July 31, 2023. The committee has now approved extending the order determining the fine and adapting it to the regulation determining the offense, so that the enforcement option will also remain in effect until February 2023.

The Deputy Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Transportation, Attorney David Tamir, explained that the amendment is technical in nature, and is intended to match the deadlines for the obligation to install a system with the deadlines for the order determining the fine. He mentioned that the temporary order went into effect on March 1, 2022, and added that from the data the ministry received from the police it appears that 8 reports were issued for the aforementioned offense.

Attorney Tamir addressed the issue raised by Chairman Bitan and said that most of the systems are not connected to the vehicle and this may be problematic for implementation, he added that importers have a tax incentive to encourage them to import vehicles in which the system is already installed. However, Chairman Bitan asked to examine the matter and respond to the committee by November of this year. In addition, he asked to examine the severity of the punishment “so that children will no longer die just like that”.

MK Moshe Tor Paz said that we must not come to a conflict between the value of life and its sanctity and the value of living. MK Boaz Toporovski mentioned that the police said they would not enforce it and the previous Minister of Transportation tried to cancel the installation, and there may be no escape from obliging the importers to install the system in new vehicles. Attorney Tamir pointed out that not every vehicle needs the system, but only those that drive a child under the age of 4, and said that there are importers who do not have the system at all and therefore this could constitute an import barrier.

MK Yonatan Masherki noted that the system will not be expensive and its cost ranges from 70 to 200 shekels. He added that one should consider giving a discount on the test to those who install a system, and said that one should also invest in advocacy. Mashreki also noted that according to data from the organization Beret for Child Safety, since the beginning of the year, over 900 children have been trapped in vehicles. MK Moshe Roth joined in the discussions regarding the need to invest in information and to give a positive incentive to those who will install the system. MK Ron Katz said that this is about saving lives and no one gives it serious consideration.

MK Michael Biton mentioned that the previous minister Rav Michaeli asked to postpone the implementation of the regulation, and the committee in the previous Knesset approved it, but then it decided against the opinion of the committee to cancel the regulation. “Babies are dying and they called it deregulation. We said we would agree to the cancellation on the condition that there would be a budget for devices for parents from among the disadvantaged populations, but the state subsidized new cars and is not ready to subsidize an old car. Both the enforcement and the budgeting for the distribution of the devices should be returned,” he said.

The representative of the Knesset’s Research and Information Center, Asanat Algom Mizrahi, stated that there is no organized data regarding the use of the system. She added that even in Israel there is no government body that collects data in an orderly manner. According to her, there are two reasons for entrapment, one is that children get into the car in the presence of their parents and get locked in it, and then get out. And the second is oblivion or entrapment that no one knows about.

According to data from Betaram and Friends, it appears that there are over a thousand cases of entrapment per year, with 1,970 such cases occurring in 2022. Since 2010 until now there have been 48 deaths, 34 of them as a result of forgetfulness and another 14 from entrapment. Algom Mizrahi also stated that Italy is the only country that mandated the installation of the system, and there is still no data from it regarding implementation.

The head of the planning and policy department at the National Road Safety Authority, Marev Rafali, said that the issue is not defined as a traffic accident, and because there is no body that takes the treatment under its responsibility, the authority took it upon itself to provide information. A representative of Betram, Einat Sagi Alfasa, added that today’s installation is lip service, because parents do not even know that it is in effect. According to her, you need to invest in information just like you explain to parents how to take a bath for the first time, and you need a significant budget.

The head of the traffic section of the police, Sen. Limor Sezu, said that the police welcomes the extension of the order, and noted that it is important by its very nature. However, she admitted that in the previous discussions the police presented the problems with enforcement, and said that the police wanted to make exactly the proposal made by chairman Bitan – that the check on the presence of the system be carried out at the licensing institutes in the annual test.

At the end of the discussion, the order was unanimously approved by the votes of Chairman Bitan, MK Shelli Tal Miron, MK Boaz Toporovsky, MK Moshe Roth, MK Yonatan Mesharki and MK Michael Biton. At the end of the discussion, Chairman Bitan returned and called on the Ministry of Transportation to update the committee by November on the steps they intend to take to address the issue.

A baby - a child in a car - a toddler
Illustration. Credit: freepik

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