By Rafi G.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.