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Mr. Goodman lived near a busy intersection. From his front porch, he easily observed passing traffic.

Most of the drivers drove carefully and obeyed traffic laws, honoring the traffic lights and giving right-of-way to pedestrians. However, he did see his fair share of poor driving and near-accidents, whether between cars or with pedestrians. He also witnessed several accidents.

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He recently noticed that a new neighbor, Mr. Rusher, was involved in several near-misses. Mr. Rusher would approach the intersection faster than other cars, run the yellow lights (occasionally even going through red), and honk away pedestrians who were trying to cross.

After several such incidents, Mr. Goodman decided to speak with Mr. Rusher.

“Welcome to our neighborhood,” Mr. Goodman approached him. “I live at the corner, near the intersection.”

“I thought I saw you sitting on the porch,” said Mr. Rusher. “What a frustrating intersection that is! It sometimes delays me!”

“Yes, I noticed,” said Mr. Goodman. “But I saw several times that you drove dangerously through the intersection.”

“I have a clean driving record!” boasted Mr. Rusher. “Not one accident on my insurance history.”

“That doesn’t mean that you drive safely,” replied Mr. Goodman.

A week later, Mr. Goodman was sitting on his porch. He again saw Mr. Rusher speed up as the light turned yellow, run through a red light, and narrowly miss a pedestrian who had stepped into the street.

“That does it!” Mr. Goodman exclaimed. “Mr. Rusher has got to stop – or be stopped!”

Mr. Goodman approached Rabbi Dayan and asked:

“Can I report Mr. Rusher to the police for driving recklessly?”

Mesirus (informing on a Jew to the authorities, endangering him or his assets), is a grievous sin,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “The moser (informer) can be liable for any damage he causes” (C.M. 388:2).

“Nonetheless, the Rishonim write that if someone harms or endangers the public, it is permissible to inform on him. For example, if someone was involved in producing counterfeit money, which could lead to pogroms, it is permissible to inform on him to the authorities. He is considered a potential rodef (pursuer) due to his illicit activities (C.M. 388:12; 425:1).

The Gra (388:74; 425:11) adds that this applies even if the perpetrator does not intend to endanger (see also Pischei Teshuva 356:1).

Based on this, Minchas Yitchak (8:148) addresses people who speed or drive recklessly. He cites the responsum of the Rosh (101:5) that a person should not run in a public place, even on foot, unless he can safely stop. Certainly, a person should not gallop with a horse in a place where people are riding, lest he not be able to stop in time; he is liable if he damages (C.M. 378:8-9).

Similarly, Minchas Yitzchak rules that someone who speeds, doesn’t stop where required, drives in a reckless manner or without a valid license – endangering the public – is considered a potential rodef, and it is permissible to inform on him to the authorities, even if he does not intend to endanger others.

However, he writes that the laws of rodef or moser require warning the person where possible that he is endangering others before informing. Here, also, the issue of reckless driving should be brought before the beis din to publicize the severity (C.M. 388:10; 425:1).

Nonetheless, when time is of the essence, or where it is not possible to warn the perpetrator, it is permissible to inform on him to the authorities to spare others from danger (Rema 388:10; Sma 425:3; Pischei Choshen 4:7[22]).

“Furthermore, on issues of public safety, the law of the land that is accepted has halachic sanction,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “Therefore, requiring the driver to conform to safety laws, with the associated penalties, is not considered as damaging or informing” (see Beis Yitzchak C.M. #77:3).

Verdict: Drivers are required by halacha to observe traffic safety laws. A person who drives recklessly should be warned, when possible, that he endangers others. If he continues, or if it is not possible to warn him, it is permissible to report him to the authorities.

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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to [email protected]. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail [email protected].