The Traffic Laws

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Tazria-Metzora 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Question: Does violating the traffic laws also constitute a Halachic violation of Torah law?

Answer: Certainly, and this is for two reasons, either of which would suffice. The first is

Pikuach Nefesh, preserving life. After all, the traffic laws are not laws someone made up just like that. They are international laws (as is, incidentally, our traffic-light system, which is kept in sync with international instructions). Were this not the case, we could not belong to the international body that governs traffic. These are things that were investigated very well in order to increase safety.

In our country, several hundred people a year are killed in traffic accidents. In other words, we’re talking about a total that reaches several times the number killed in all of Israel’s wars, and by terror.

A Torah scholar wrote an article entitled, “Our Country’s Number Two Enemy”. He explained, “The country’s number two enemy is the Arabs. Its number one enemy is traffic accidents.”

Violating the traffic laws is dangerous! Don’t be a wise guy and say, “It’s not dangerous. I see no danger involved, and the fact is that I have violated the traffic laws and nothing happened to me.”

It is dangerous! It’s been examined objectively. Obviously, I’m not saying that everyone who breaks the traffic laws will have an accident, but in law, the principle of generalization holds, or in Aramaic, “Lo Pelug” – “We don’t distinguish regarding exceptions.” This, then, is the first reason: preserving life.

The second reason is the authority of the laws of the State. A person has to fulfill the country’s laws even according to Torah law, and this for three reasons:

1. Dina De-Malchuta Dina - “The State’s laws are binding”. This principle, by the way, applies even outside the Land of Israel. If someone lives in England, he is bound by the laws of England, and if he doesn’t like them, he should leave England. Obviously, in our own country, Israel, we won’t tell a Jew that if he doesn’t like the laws he should leave the country… but in any event, the principle of Dina De-Malchuta Dina is binding.

2. Tuvei Ha-Ir [town notables. Bava Batra 8] - In other words, the principle that elected officials are authorized to enact municipal laws, and these laws bind everyone. There is no difference between city officials and national government officials.

3. Monarchic Authority. It is true that today we have no king, but Maran Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohain Kook proves in a long Teshuvah in Shut Mishpat Cohain that some of the king’s authorities are transferable to any agreed-upon leadership, i.e. the Israeli Government.

It is therefore permissible for the government to send soldiers to war, without being guilty of murder. They are also allowed to collect taxes without being guilty of theft.

These three concepts, in addition to the requirement to preserve life, explain why we must adhere to the country’s traffic laws.