Israel police roll out traffic drones to catch reckless drivers
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Israel police roll out traffic drones to catch reckless drivers

Unmanned aircraft are as yet unable to track the speed of vehicles or determine if the driver is using a cellphone

Illustrative. A police car blocks traffic along southern Israel's Route 34 highway because of a fire in the area on June 4, 2018. (Oshri Tzimmer)
Illustrative. A police car blocks traffic along southern Israel's Route 34 highway because of a fire in the area on June 4, 2018. (Oshri Tzimmer)

After a successful two-month pilot program, Israeli traffic police have started using drones to film reckless drivers in the hope the footage can be used in prosecutions.

The drones, which hover 100 meters above the road, are particularly effective at tracking drivers who stray over lane markers, tailgate, and commit dangerous driving offenses, Channel 10 news reported.

However, the drones are as yet unable to track the speed of a vehicle or determine if the driver is using a cellphone. Cellphone use was the number one cause of car accidents in Israel in 2017.

The introduction of the unmanned aircraft comes weeks after an Israeli court threw out several traffic violation indictments over concerns about the accuracy of the nationwide network of automated speed cameras employed by the police.

Earlier this year, a study by the Technion suggested the cameras were not as accurate as previously claimed by the government’s Standards Institute.

Hundreds of millions of shekels in fines and countless civil suits have been issued based on evidence garnered from the cameras in recent years. The new findings have sent police scrambling to make a final determination about the continued use of the network of cameras, including by inviting foreign experts for consultations.

Several weeks ago, the State Attorney’s Office instructed police that until the question of the cameras’ accuracy is resolved, it will not be able to extract fines from drivers.

Against that backdrop, the Petah Tikva Traffic Court in June canceled several speeding indictments against a driver, noting that the delay in determining the cameras’ accuracy and establishing a consistent policy for handling speeding violations detected by the network made it impossible to prosecute drivers.

In January, police said 362 people were killed on Israeli roads throughout 2017. The number of yearly fatalities has hovered between 300 and 400 in recent years.

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