Traffic Laws in Halakhah

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Traffic laws in frum circles fall under the category of “lesser commandments which a person [sometimes] treads on with his heels” (Rashi, Devarim 7:12) except that they can really be among the hamuros and not just “lesser commandments” because reckless driving puts people’s lives in danger.

From’s Business Halacha class, written by R. Tzvi Shpitz and translated into English by R. Aaron Tendler:

A. Traffic laws that are enacted to save human lives and property are obligatory according to the laws of the Torah on every person, at all times and everywhere in the world. It makes no difference what type of government enacted them.

B. If a person knows of someone who drives recklessly and endangers people’s lives, he must do everything within his power to prevent the reckless driver from driving in this manner. Therefore, if he is able to personally warn the driver, or summon him to appear before a Rabbi or Bais Din to warn him to refrain from driving recklessly, he must do so. If he is certain that these steps will not be effective, the Halacha requires him to inform the police of this danger to the public safety, so that the reckless driver and others like him can be prevented from causing tragedies…

C. The case of a person who drives recklessly and kills someone is in the category of “Shogeg Korov L’Maizid”, unintentional but caused by negligence (lit. “close to deliberate”). This means that, in the times of our Sanhedrin, although he could not be found deserving of capital punishment…

D. Today, when we don’t have Dayanim (Rabbinic judges) authorized to judge cases of capital punishment, a Go’el HaDam is not permitted to do anything to someone who killed his relative through reckless driving. However, the driver must repent in a manner that is befitting his terrible action. He also must financially support the family of the victim, especially if the victim was the bread winner of his family…

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

One comment

  1. You’ve really helped me undetsarnd the issues. Thanks.

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