The Torah Obligation To Drive Responsibly

drivingThe Torah’s command of Ma’ake, which requires erecting a fence around one’s roof or porch to guard against the risk of people falling, also obligates one to avoid any kind of activity that endangers himself or others.  Accordingly, people who drive automobiles are required by Torah law to ensure that the car is in proper working condition and that he drives safely and in strict accordance with traffic laws.  Speeding endangers the life of the driver and the lives of pedestrians and other motorists, and is thus strictly forbidden by Torah law.  The Minhat Yishak (Rav Yishak Weiss, 1902-1989), in his work Masa Haderech (chapter 1, p. 32), writes that a motorist who drives unsafely has the Halachic status of a “Rodef” – somebody trying to kill others.  He must therefore be stopped through any available means.  And Rav Shemuel Wosner (contemporary), in his work Shebet Halevi (vol. 6, Siman 112), writes that is plainly obvious that speeding and reckless driving fall under the category of “Safek Resiha” (possible murder) and “Safek Me’abed Asmo La’da’at” (possible suicide).

Furthermore, if a person parks his car on the sidewalk, thus compelling pedestrians to walk in the street and expose themselves to danger, he is in violation of the Torah prohibition against endangering people.  In fact, the Shulhan Aruch rules in Hoshen Mishpat (18:1) that if a person poured water onto a public area, and somebody slipped on the water and was injured, the one who spilled the water is liable to pay compensation.  The Shulhan Aruch also rules (Hoshen Mishpat 427:8) that there is a Torah obligation to remove anything that poses danger, and one who is aware of such an object and fails to remove it neglects a Misvat Aseh (affirmative command) and violates the Torah prohibition of “Ve’lo Tasim Damim Be’betecha” (“You shall not bring bloodguilt into your home” – Debarim 22:8).  Certainly, then, people who drive motor vehicles are bound by a Torah obligation to drive and park safely, so as not to endanger themselves or others.

Moreover, if a person applies for a driver’s license and does not reveal that he suffers from a condition that makes it dangerous for him to drive (such as epilepsy, Heaven forbid), those who are aware of this condition must inform the Department of Motor Vehicles.  If his private doctor or family members, for example, are aware of his condition, they should inform the authorities to prevent the prospective driver from obtaining a license.  Some people might mistakenly think that they should keep quiet in order not to violate the prohibition of Lashon Hara (negative speech about other people).  But this is incorrect.  There is nothing “righteous” about withholding information that could save lives, and therefore the authorities should be notified of any medical condition that could make it dangerous for an applicant to drive.

Summary: There is a Torah obligation to avoid posing danger to oneself or others, and therefore one who drives a car must ensure to drive responsibly, avoid speeding, and obey all traffic and parking laws.  One should also inform the authorities if somebody applying for a license has a medical condition that makes driving dangerous. DailyHalacha.

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  1. Thank you TLS
    I certainly can use a reminder every once in a while to
    Slow Down
    Stop at Stop Signs
    Use my signals
    Only make legal turns and U turns
    Use my hands free device
    Stop using my horn, only in emergencies
    Make sure my passengers and myself are properly seat belted
    Pick up hitchhikers with out obstructing traffic
    Stop for School Buses (far away from the bus)
    park in manner that does not obstruct traffic
    and be patient with slow inexperienced drivers that always seem to be in my way

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