Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

17 Adar I 5760 - February 23 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Driving Safely

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 getting fined.

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 devastating.

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 drivers.

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 shmatte?"

We must all treat all aspects of automobiles as the matter of life and death that they are.

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