Beit Midrash

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Remedying Road Accidents

Many talk of the importance of cautious driving. Unfortunately, however, such talk goes largely unheeded, and road recklessness continues to take lives on a daily basis. What can we say that will influence people and cause them to drive more carefully?


Various Rabbis

Av 5768
The Commandment to Drive Carefully
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed
Many people talk about the importance of cautious driving. Unfortunately, however, such talk goes largely unheeded, and road recklessness continues to take lives on a daily basis. What can we say that will have an impact on people and cause them to drive more carefully? Greater awareness of the large number of casualties resulting from speeding has not stopped people from speeding, neither has a greater awareness of accidents resulting from illegal bypassing led to a drop in such cases. What then can we say that will influence people?

Drivers must be aware that reckless driving is more than just a traffic offense; it is a serious Torah violation. Reckless driving is forbidden in and of itself, even if no injury results. Such driving brings a fine from above, and such fines are incomparably more severe than fines given by the police. Up there in heaven, every incident of reckless driving is recorded; every violation of "Be extremely protective of your lives" is taken into account. As the sages teach, "Know what is above you: a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and all of your actions are recorded in a book."

Let me, however, circumscribe my above generalization, for most drivers observe the rules of traffic safety; only a small percentage of drivers do not abide by the law. It is this latter group, then, that I address, in an effort to find, together, some way of influencing reckless drivers.

When a person sits down at the wheel he must be aware that he is about to fulfill a Torah commandment, the commandment to "Be extremely protective of your lives." If, heaven forbid, he is not cautious when driving, he violates this commandment even if no traffic accident results.

A driver who stops at a yellow light, despite the temptation to cross before it turns red, fulfills a Torah commandment. The same is true of a driver who chooses not to pass in a location where there is danger, even the slightest danger. Driving, then, becomes a channel for accumulating virtuous deeds. The settler community, aspiring to the integrity of the land, the Torah, and the Nation of Israel, ought to be the first to exemplify this obligation.

The way a person drives has the power to affect his overall conduct. Safe, calm, calculated driving, driving aimed at fulfilling the verse "Be extremely protective of your lives," can cause all of one’s conduct to be calm, calculated, and pleasant. Only with healthy faculties will we be able to overcome all impediments and achieve integrity of the Nation of Israel, the Land of Israel, and the Torah of Israel.

Let us look upon cautious driving as part of our total service of God. Let us act upon our surroundings to improve and perfect our driving. Let teachers speak with their students, let parents speak with their children, and may God guide us and help us in all of our endeavors.

Better Character Traits Make a Better Driver
Rabbi Shmuel Yaniv
Judaism’s three cardinal transgressions – idolatry, incest and bloodshed – present a trial for every generation. Each generation suffers in its own unique way from the pain and agony of these vices.

In ancient times, diseases, sea voyages, and desert travel posed the most serious threat to life. Today, auto accidents make bloodshed a common aspect of road travel. Car accidents result from negative character traits such as anger, frustration, despair, intolerance or impatience. It is a proven fact that a driver who is angry or depressed is more likely to be careless and endanger life than one who is not.

In serving God, we are commanded to control ourselves. We must refrain from being overly aggressive or dominating, and we must avoid relying on force to get what we want. Each of us should strive to refine those traits that contribute to road accidents, and the ideal channels for doing this are Torah study and prayer.

Reducing accidents through self-control is crucial in light of the tremendous gravity of bloodshed, for, as we have pointed out, bloodshed is one of Judaism’s three cardinal sins. Maybe, in addition to the traditional Wayfarer’s Prayer (Tefilat HaDerech), a special prayer for patience and tolerance on the roads should be composed for drivers.

One practical way of fostering cautious and responsible driving would be to require each new driver to visit Beit Levinstein or the rehabilitation ward in Tel HaShomer Hospital. At such places the new driver would meet the crippled, amputated and invalid victims of traffic accidents. He would come face to face with people who have been deprived of basic functions like talking and eating. The new driver would then internalize the horrible significance of leaving behind orphans, Heaven forbid!

Every driver must repeatedly tell himself that it does not matter how quickly he reaches his destination. What matters is that he drive cautiously so that nobody be injured and so that he not cause a tragedy he will regret for the rest of his life. If we all improve our character traits, auto accidents will, with God’s help, be prevented, and we will live a happy and good life.

The Laws of Traffic Safety
Rabbi Gidon Perl
Researchers have determined that the human element, i.e., driving behavior, is the principal cause of road fatalities. Such behavior is composed of numerous elements: excessive self-confidence, speeding, disregard for the laws of traffic safety, ineptitude and unfamiliarity with the automobile’s workings, lightheadedness that leads to unnecessary risks, a thirst for adventure, lack of foresight, lack of concentration on driving and on road conditions, fatigue, excessive alcohol intake, reckless driving caused by internet games and movies that encourage rivalry and precariousness on the roads, etc. Road accidents obviously result from other things as well, such as automobile malfunction and poor road conditions, but these are not the principal causes.

Traffic accidents that result from human misconduct can be prevented through educating toward positive character traits from an early age, especially the obligation to "love your fellow as yourself," or, in the words of the sages, "Do not do to your fellow that which is undesirable to you." A God-fearing person who fulfills Torah commandments and adopts the virtuous traits of the Torah and the sages must distance himself from the negative conduct mentioned above.

What is more, a person who drives recklessly, in addition to the obvious misconduct involved, also violates a number of Jewish laws. The sages teach, "Humans are always responsible for their actions" – when a person behaves in a negative manner he is responsible for the repercussions, not only to himself but to others as well. It follows that such a person violates the commandments "You shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow" and "Do not place blood upon your house."

Therefore, one who causes an accident through reckless driving is guilty (Shevet Levi 8:301), in the same manner that a Kohen who kills, even inadvertently, may no longer raise his hands to bless the congregation (Yechave Daat 5:16). In addition, excessive self-confidence stems from arrogance, which is also forbidden.

Likewise, whoever sees a driver endangering the public must inform the authorities in order to prevent danger (see Tzitz Eliezer 2:13, who obligates an ophthalmologist to inform the authorities regarding a driver with impaired eyesight, based on the commandment "You shall not stand idly by the blood of your fellow").
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