Not too long ago there was no law in Israel. Then one had to
do it only lesheim mitzva. Now that it is a legal
requirement, one can do it shelo lishmo -- for fear of
What are we talking about? Putting on a seat belt while
driving -- a simple act that takes almost no time and that
can save dozens, if not hundreds, of lives.
Study after study found that the major injuries to passengers
involved, Rachmono litzlan, in collisions come from
the impact of the person hitting parts of the car or, what is
much worse, being thrown free and hitting the ground. Rock,
metal and even earth are hard and unforgiving. If one smashes
into them traveling 100 kilometers per hour (62 miles per
hour) -- or even at much lower speeds -- the effects of a
collision on the relatively frail human body are
If one is restrained by appropriate seat belts, the chances
are much greater of walking away from even serious accidents.
Undoubtedly the safest place to be in the short, sharp
violence of an automobile collision is restrained between the
seat belts and the soft car seat.
If that is not motivation enough, then perhaps the fear of a
fine for violating traffic laws that are more often requiring
drivers and passengers to buckle up their seat belts while
driving can bring you to buckle up.
If that is not reason enough, then there is what perhaps
should be the main reason: the pure mitzva of ushemartem
es nafshoseichem. A simple act that easily becomes a
subliminal habit can be the fulfillment of a great mitzva.
In fact, the mitzva should have been sufficient to bring
widespread buckling up in the religious community, but it did
not. Few drivers can say that they put on their seat belts
regularly before the law required it, and even today not
everyone can say that they put it on all the time. This
issue, of course, applies to passengers as much as to
An important related issue that applies only to drivers is
that of care and courtesy while driving. Many gedolei
Yisroel have expressed their skepticism about automobiles
and the way they are driven in the modern world. The Steipler
Gaon is reported to have said that he was sure that the
automobile would have been forbidden if it had been invented
in the days of Chazal because of the dangers involved. The
rabbonim of today do not feel they have the power and insight
necessary to make such a takono, but their feelings
must give pause to every driver who knows something about
what kind of people gedolei Yisroel are.
Pedestrians must also surely take the care that is
appropriate in a dangerous situation, and not rely on the
drivers for their safety.
Every driver must remember that he is at the controls of a
machine that weighs more than a ton and is traveling
dangerously fast. If something bad happens, it can have
serious consequences for the driver or for someone else.
This really happened: A small truck backs up without seeing a
lady walking behind it, and knocks her down. It would
certainly have been worse had the woman's daughter not
screamed: the driver's side mirror was covered with mud from
the recent rain. "I'm terribly sorry. I could not see you
from my mud-covered mirror."
"What?! You mean you ran me over because you did not have a
We must all treat all aspects of automobiles as the matter of
life and death that they are.