One of the great Chassidic Rebbes of the previous generation is said to have remarked that had cars been invented in the time of Chazal, they would have considered banning them — because of the physical dangers they pose to travelers and bystanders.
“I would myself choose to travel in a horse and wagon, but what would I accomplish if there is a car speeding right behind us?” the Rebbe added.
Driving a car is a weighty responsibility, and any act of negligence — such as texting or otherwise using a hand-held phone while driving — endangers not only one’s own life, but also the lives of other drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
In addition to carefully adhering to traffic rules themselves, car owners must take extra precautions before agreeing to lend their vehicles to youthful or aspiring drivers. According to New York State governmental statistics, motor vehicle crashes are thenumber-one cause of death, Rachmana litzlan,for people aged 16–24. The vast majority of these crashes are caused either directly or indirectly by driver inexperience.
But cars, trucks and motorcycles aren’t the only moving objects traveling our streets. Our roadways are also used by individuals on bicycles and, increasingly, scooters. According to the federal government, nearly 50,000 pedal cyclists were injured after colliding with a motor vehicle in 2012, the most recent year for which this information is available.
Unlike motor vehicles, no license is needed to pedal a bike or maneuver a scooter. But bicyclists are considered vehicle operators; they are required to obey the same rules of the road as other vehicle operators. They must obey traffic signs, signals, and lane markings, and ride in the same direction as traffic.
According to New York City law, unless a rider is age 12 or younger and the bicycle’s wheels are less than 26 inches in diameter, it is prohibited to drive a bike on a sidewalk, and very dangerous. It is the responsibility of parents of both younger and older children to ensure that they are wearing helmets, know all the rules of the road and adhere to them, before allowing them access to a bike or a scooter. Unless parents are certain that a child is mature enough to maneuver through the streets safely, they must never allow their child to attempt it.
For drivers of cars, a bike suddenly darting in front of them is one of the worst nightmares imaginable. For pedestrians — especially senior citizens — a collision with a fast-moving bike could cause very serious injuries or worse, R”l.
In some ways, scooters and roller skates, which are less controllable, can be even more dangerous for all involved.
Ultimately, our fate rests solely in the Hands of Heaven, and even the most drastic precautions don’t provide a guarantee of safety. Yet, as part of our obligation to guard our health and wellbeing, we are required to undertake every appropriate hishtadlus. May we all merit a safe and healthy summer.