Wednesday, April 21, 2004

This morning, I drove down to the Talpiot Industrial Zone to drop my car off for its annual service. We've been together for 4 1/2 years and a few blocks over 50,000 km, and I've grown quite attached to my little Coupe which, to be fair, hasn't given me too much trouble mechanically. Nonetheless, even this one annual trip to the car doctor represents a fairly significant hole in my pocket; not to the extent that I'll be considering trading in for a tandem anytime soon though!

As I walked into the office, I reflected on how lucky I've been not to be involved in a smash during my time on the roads. Israel has, for many years been fighting a battle to reduce the number of road deaths, which have well surpassed the number of soldiers killed in all of its wars. In an average year, roughly 450 people will be killed in traffic accidents of some sort. Figures on the site of Anashim Be'Adom, one of many grass roots organisations dedicated to fighting road accidents, suggest that in 2002, one out of every 172 Israeli residents was involved in a car smash of some sort.

Given the way in which many people drive here, these statistics are perhaps unsurprising. It is a mentality that is often traced back to soldiers, on leave for the weekend who need to get everything done as quickly as possible; living for the moment. The army now takes particular responsibility to stress the importance of resting before going out "in Daddy's car" when sent home. When I was serving, this consisted of screening some particularly graphic films to drive the point home. The radio is constantly blaring car safety ads and the fact that deaths were down last year suggests that maybe the message is starting to sink in. Too slowly for 2 kids who stopped on the hard shoulder after running out of petrol who were mowed down by a lorry this week.....

Both in England, where I drove for 5 years before my Aliyah and in Israel since purchasing my car, I've been lucky enough to steer clear of trouble. I say "lucky" for a reason: although I consider myself to be a pretty good driver, its always the other moron who you need to look out for. This was easier to do in the UK where drivers are more predictable; undertaking and overtly aggressive driving are the exception; not the rule. In Israel, the only thing that is predictable about other drivers is that they will be unpredictable. Somehow however, other than an extremely annoying dent in my door that was the result of someone managing to hit me despite my being one of only 7 cars in a 200 space car park, I have not yet had to make the acquaintance of my insurance assessor.

I just picked my baby up complete with shiny new brake discs, various exchanged fluids and filters and a windscreen spray that actually works. The exhaust is no longer making disconcerting noises and hopefully that will be all I'll have to see of my mechanics 'til this time next year. The service was superb by the way - I even received 3 calls during the day from the receptionist to get my permission to carry out additional work and to tell me that the car was ready. The bottom line was at the same time far too much and exactly what I had expected it to be.

Drive safely, be considerate of other drivers and if you see a silver Megane Coupe waiting patiently at a junction - be kind and let me into the line of traffic!


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