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Q&A: Rebuking Texting Drivers, and Bounced Checks

January 27, 2015

Question: What did you mean when you said last week that texting drivers are like drunk drivers and need to be stopped?

Answer: I meant this, which has been matters of public record for some time. I also meant to say that just preventing someone drunk from getting behind the wheel is a matter of life and death, it is a matter of life and death to prevent drivers from being distracted by their cellphones. Now, if someone were intoxicated, it would be any bystander’s duty to prevent him from driving, first by persuasion, then by calling the police, and then, if necessary because the police can not come on time, physically preventing the drunk for driving, e.g., by taking his keys, or placing some sort of roadblock around his vehicle. This all must be done with the greatest wisdom, so it is best left to the cops.

Question: So what should be done with a texting driver?

Answer: If you can get his attention, tell him to stop texting and about how dangerous it is to continue. I must emphasize that in this regard, you can not pay heed to anyone’s dignity. That is, even if it’s the Chief Rabbi himself, he must be reminded that his actions can kill others. if you see someone doing it frequently or obviously, then you must call the police, just like if you saw someone driving drunk. The other day I had to do this to a local bus driver, who made his rounds with his head buried in his lap. Better he not drive than endanger others.

Question: Someone owed me 100 shekels, and paid me back with a check that bounced. I don’t know why, but my bank charged me a 4 shekel penalty for that, and then he offered to pay me in cash. Can I ask him for 4 more shekels to cover the penalty I incurred?

Answer: Assuming the question is about the prohibition against interest, you can. The 100 NIS go to cover the exact amount of the debt, and whatever penalties you incurred (and that he probably incurred) are considered a separate hezeq, damage for which he is liable. The 4 shekels are not interest in anyway on the debt.

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