06/04/2012 06:04
80% of Israel’s coast exposed directly or indirectly to damages from vehicles, according to INPA data.

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Or Yarok Association for Safer Driving in Israel have launched a campaign to end the phenomenon of driving on beaches, an activity that is illegal within 100 meters of the sea.

About 80 percent of Israel’s approximately 200 km. coastline is exposed directly or indirectly to damages from vehicles that injure nature and endanger the coast, according to INPA data.

In 2011, enforcement of illegal beach driving activity – cars, motorcycles and ATVs – reached almost 1,500 incidents, and this year the numbers have already accumulated to 400, according to the authority.

“We have a tailwind from the public, who sees driving on the beaches as destructive behavior,” Shaul Goldstein, director of the INPA, said in a statement released by his office. “This is a violation of the law that harms nature and endangers lives and we are determined to bring it to an end.”

The joint campaign, called “Bring an end to beach driving,” was launched on Sunday, and will include “uncompromising enforcement methods against law violators,” supported by radio broadcasts, social networking, beach signs and materials directly distributed to bathers, the authority said.

The campaign will cost about NIS 120,000 and will continue throughout the summer, with the enforcement assistance of the Israel Police and its traffic division, the Border Police, the Coastal Police, local councils, Environmental Protection Ministry inspectors and volunteers from Or Yarok.

The law prohibiting driving on beaches has been in place for 15 years, but until an amendment to the law was passed last year – which allowed the INPA to create its Hofmi beach enforcement unit – it was rarely enforced, explained Eldad Peled, director of monitoring and enforcement at INPA.

“With the amendment to the law we decided to change the tone, because after 15 years of publicity and signage it was clear that every driver was already familiar with the ban,” Peled said.

During last year’s many incidents, the authority conducted dozens of enforcement operations with the help of authority aircraft and police helicopters, where long-range cameras are able to help document violations from afar, according to Peled. Anyone who decides to drive on the beach will receive a fine of between NIS 500 and NIS 1,000 in the mail.

“We are convinced that with each passing week we will see fewer vehicles on the beach, for the benefit of nature and the general public,” Peled said.

To help achieve this goal, this year’s INPA enforcement budget increased from NIS 150,000 to NIS 400,000, he continued.

“Driving on the beach is a phenomenon that causes huge damage to sensitive nature in the coastal environmental and to anyone who wants to have fun at the beach,” Goldstein added. “Not every country is blessed with a strip of beach – that of Israel is a small and expensive strip and therefore it is our duty to preserve it.”