May 16, 2011

Interesting Psak: Paying Instead Of Buckling

The Seat Belt Law
In Israel the law is that every person riding in a car must be buckled up. if a policeman stops the car and finds anyone riding within not buckled, he issues a fine to the driver.

What Is Commonly Done
When the unbuckled rider is someone who was getting a ride, and especially if he had been told by the driver to buckle up but chose not to, common practice is generally that the unbuckled rider is the one expected to pay the fine.

I am not sure why he ever would, except for common decency, as it is the driver's license that is recorded for the fine. The unbuckled rider can walk away and never pay the fine and only the driver would get in trouble. Of course if the rider was not a hitchhiker but a friend or family of the driver and was being given a ride with a previous relationship, then the rider would pay to avoid harming the relationship. But in a hitchhiker situation, the hitchhiker would usually be expected to pay, considering it is his fault the driver was fined, despite the fact that he really has no impetus to do so.

The Story
A fellow was driving to hear his regular shiur from Rav Elyashiv. Along the way he picked up a "trempist" - a hitchhiker who need to go somewhere along the same route. After warning the passenger to buckle up a number of times, he began driving.

As luck would have it, along the way the traffic  police pulled him over. After checking his papers, the policeman issued a fine due to the unbuckled passenger. A fine to the tune of 500 NIS.

The driver told his passenger that he should take the fine and pay it, due to it being his fault it was issued. The passenger refused, saying the fine was issued to the driver rather than to him. After arguing about it for a bit, they agreed to go to Rav Elyashiv and lay it out before him, and they would act in accordance with whatever Rav Elyashiv would say.

The Interesting Psak From Rav Elyashiv
Rav Elyashiv paskened that because the law requires all passengers to buckle up, the driver is not allowed to begin driving until he ensures that all passengers are appropriately buckled. The driver is obligated to pay the fine because it is his fault he began driving before ensuring the passengers were buckled. He received the fine for that and he must pay it.

As proof to his psak that the driver, rather than the passenger, is at fault, Rav Elyashiv referenced a recent question he paskened on.

The Proof
5 people got stuck in an elevator. They came before Rav Elyashiv asking which of the 5 is obligated to pay the costs of the rescue and evacuation operation, and for repairing the elevator. The story began with four people in the elevator, and a fifth tried to jump in. The four warned him that it might be too heavy for the elevator and warned him that it might get stuck. he insisted and went into the elevator.

The four of them wanted the fifth fellow to pay the bill, as they claimed it was his fault the elevator got stuck. The fifth fellow claimed it was not his fault as it was a combined effort and the bill should be divided equally among all of them.

Rav Elyashiv heard the story and paskened that whichever one of them pushed the button to activate the elevator is the one obligated to pay the bill. he is the one who caused the elevator to get stuck.

As an aside, I wonder what would be the psak if the fellow had pushed the button and then the fifth guy jumped in catching the door at the last moment. I would guess, based on Rav Elyashiv's psak, that in this situation he would probably say the fifth fellow would be at fault and would need to pay.

Comparing the cases therefore one comes to the conclusion that in the case of the driver and passenger, it is the driver who is at fault. he drove when he should not have. Therefore he must pay the fine. (source: Kikar)


  1. Something is fishy here. I recently read the (almost) exact same story about the guys in the elevator (the "Proof" story) - however - it was Rav Nissim Karelitz who gave that psak! It was in a recent Mishpacha:

    The array of questions posed to the Rav in a short span is fascinating. At one point, six bochurim enter. On Purim, while slightly inebriated, they had all entered an elevator that was meant for four. The elevator got stuck and had to be repaired. Who is responsible to pay for the damages?
    Rav Nissim listens to the question with his head bowed, then peers at them and asks: “What do you think the halachah is?”
    The bochurim exchange glances. Can they speak before the gadol? One of them is brave enough to venture, “The last two who entered the elevator should pay.”
    “Why?” the gaon presses.
    “Because they entered when it was forbidden,” the bochur replied.
    “They damaged the elevator by entering it?”
    “No,” the bochur responds, “but if not for them, the elevator would not have become stuck.”
    “The bochur who pressed the elevator button and caused it to begin moving must pay,” Rav Nissim rules.
    The bochurim look at each other with expressions of amazement, grasping the depth of the clear, logical psak.

  2. thats where it was! I remembered the story, but couldnt remember where I had seen it! Thanks

  3. What about the Kupah Shel Tzedakah Purim parade? Who gave them a psak not to buckle up, ride with kids on the roof and generally flaunt the law?

  4. a. perhaps, and I dont know if this is correct or not so I only say perhaps, a parade is not considered normal driving and therefore does not require seatbelts. I dont know if that is true, and I dont know if they had a registered for an ishur for a parade.

    b. who said they needed such a psak? if the police would have given out tickets, they could have asked who is obligated to pay.

    c.Especially interesting would be if someone gave a ride to another reveler who didnt buckle up, because its a parade after all, and got a ticket. Would he have paid? the rider? the kupa?

  5. The Rav soes not understand the concept of a counterfactual claim of responsibility. I guess if I cut the brakes on someones car it is the driver's fault for running someone over. And if I leave the gas on in someone's house it is not my fault if it blows up, but the person who turned on the light.

  6. I find this Psak very interesting because it underlines the driver's responsibility, as we are constantly being reminded, "Don't start driving until everyone is seatbelted." This is the law, and if the hitchhiker doesn't want to put on a seat belt he can walk.

  7. I gave 2 people a ride once, and the one in the back did not buckle.
    I didn't notice, and didn't even think to look, because it didn't occur to me that a mature adult would fail to buckle. About a block into the trip I was pulled over and ticketed for having an unbuckled passenger. I told the cop that I hadn't realized that she was unbuckled. The cop asked if I had instructed the passenger to buckle, and I answered honestly that I hadn't. IIRC he said that if I had instructed her to and she failed, then she would have received the ticket. (She paid it anyway, but I received the points and was delayed because of being pulled over!)
    In the moni'ot sherut there is a sign that it is the passengers responsibility to buckle.
    This implies that as long as the driver informs the passengers to buckle they carry responsibility. I don't know who holds the burden of proof.
    Once I picked someone up, and they refused to buckle, I asked them to get out and they refused! So I drove them the few blocks that they wanted relying on the above. I suppose I could have called the cops, but I didn't have time.

  8. interesting. he refused to buckle? refused to get out? what a chutzpa!

    I wonder if that nuance of the law would change the psak. Maybe rav elyashiv was not aware of that rule that if the driver warns the passenger the responsibility changes hands.


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