June 18, 2012
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Article and photos by Jonathan Yarkony
It’s good to be home.
The rest of the country might complain about Toronto drivers, but I like them just fine, thank you very much. While it didn’t have quite the element of complete chaos as traffic in the Philippines, where I visited several years ago, Israeli traffic seems to be hell-bent on distraction and destruction.
First of all, good luck finding a guy not talking on the phone while driving their equivalent of a big white van — a little white MPV. Just doesn’t happen. Surprisingly, that seemed downright minor compared to the bizarre lane merges and the way Israelis treat them.
Lane endings are marked within a very short distance of when they actually end, and it took me almost a week to realize that there were actually signs warning of those merges. That was my bad, though. How most drivers approach them? That is just weird. Turn signals? What turn signals? Common practice is to simply keep driving, completely ignoring that there are multiple vehicles now about to occupy the same space. Who has right of way? Whoever pretends not to notice the other vehicles around him the longest. Seriously, most drivers seem to just keep on driving with blinders on most of the time. This also caused a couple of ripple-effect swerves over a couple lanes, where each driver had to give up his lane for a merging driver that did not have right of way.
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Sometimes the lanes themselves don’t help matters — one junction that I had to navigate had a left lane that veered into the right lane while the right lane simply ended, just in order to create a new left lane for left turns… totally bizarre. Why could the left lane just turn into the left-turn lane and leave the right lane alone?
And then there are the crazies. In my life I have never seen aggressive driving like I did in my two weeks in Israel. Not that all the drivers are crazy; in fact, most drivers are surprisingly mellow, but the crazies I saw took crazy to a whole new level. I witnessed two particularly scary incidents that I was relieved I was not involved in.
The first was when the driver of a BMW 5 Series blew by me as I was travelling late at night at a sedate 130 km/h in the middle lane of an almost empty three-lane highway. Several hundred metres ahead, he was stuck behind a slow-driving (probably also something like 130) unidentifiable compact. While the driver in the compact was needlessly occupying the left lane as the middle was free, the BMW driver proceeded to flash his high beams repeatedly, swerve from side to side while riding dangerously close to the bumper of the car he wanted to pass. Rather than wait a few seconds or use the middle lane to pass (which, by and large, Israelis are usually quick to do), the BMW driver swerved onto the left shoulder and passed him while kicking up a dirt storm as he kissed the gravel on the way by. Scary, right?