Questions From Readers
● If a Christian driving an automobile has an accident that results in death to others, what would be the Christian congregation’s responsibility, in view of possible bloodguiltiness? What if the driver has violated “Caesar’s” speed or highway laws or has been careless?—K. F., West Germany.
In cases of automobile accidents where a life or a number of lives are lost, the question of the extent of bloodguilt, if any, is certainly one that deserves to be considered by the judicial committee of the congregation with which the car driver is associated. Even if a law court decides that the accident was not the fault of the driver, it would be proper on the part of the judicial committee of the congregation to examine the driver and try to determine whether, in actuality, there could be bloodguilt attached to that driver. This is important because the congregation does not want to come under any community responsibility for the accidental loss of life, arising from a Christian’s carelessness or disregard for “Caesar’s” traffic laws.
If the driver in an accident with fatal consequences is a representative servant of the congregation and it is established that bloodguiltiness is attached to him, it would not be proper for him to continue as a servant. If carelessness is the cause, the driver must bear the responsibility for such carelessness or lack of caution.—Gal. 6:5, 7.
Thus if a road with a railroad crossing had no special warning lights, bells or gates, the driver still should have been careful to look before crossing. If a flying insect was causing annoyance, the driver should first have stopped the car and then remedied the situation. If a passenger in the back seat was speaking to the driver, he should have kept his eyes on the road, not trying to drive and also look at the back-seat passenger. If the weather situation was bad, more care should have been exercised by the driver. If the driver was drowsy, he should have relinquished the wheel to someone else, or he should have stopped the car and taken a rest until he got over his sleepy condition.
Consequently, it would be proper for the congregation judicial committee to inquire into the matter and determine just how far the car driver shared in any responsibility for the fatal accident. It is well to remember that the unintentional manslayer in ancient Israel who fled to the city of refuge had to stand trial before the city authorities before he would be allowed to remain in the city of refuge, safe from the vengeance of the avenger of blood.—Num. 35:6-25.
If the accident was due to circumstances over which the car driver had absolutely no control, then, of course, he could be excused and there would be nothing to blemish his record, should he be a responsible servant in the congregation. But if it is found that a measure of blame does attach to the car driver, it would then be in order to remove him from his position of service and not reconsider him for a position of responsibility for at least one year. This will make it known that the committee does not want any community responsibility for accidental loss of life to attach itself to the congregation by its maintaining in a prominent, representative, exemplary position a brother to whom a measure of bloodguiltiness is attached. If the blameworthy driver is not a servant in the congregation, he would, of course, not be considered for a servant’s position for some time after this. Since the driver is not a proper example to the flock, discretion on the part of the committee would also require that they wait a suitable length of time before giving him any assignments to instruct the congregation.
If the car driver has been careless, it would be well for the committee also to counsel him and to help him see the measure of his responsibility. The committee would determine whether he realizes this and feels repentant about it and has appealed to Jehovah God for divine mercy through Jesus Christ.
After the termination of his disqualification, as a result of which it is manifest that the brother involved has benefited as well as shown the right spirit together with due repentance, he might be appointed to some responsible position if one is available and there is a need.
If the driver, however, continues to show carelessness or pays no heed to “Caesar’s” highway or speed laws, then he could not be considered for a servant’s position. A car driver ought not to exceed the speed limit that “Caesar” sets for his roadways, streets and avenues. If he is a dedicated Christian and does exceed the speed limit, not only is it a failure to render to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar, but there is also the pressing danger of accidents, with the possibility of fatal consequences.—Matt. 22:21.
Those who have exemplary positions in the congregation should therefore set proper examples when they are driving. What kind of example would it be to the flock if an overseer were careless about “Caesar’s” traffic regulations? (1 Pet. 5:3) What effect would it have upon young men in the congregation if the overseer were a speedster? (Titus 2:6, 7) In view of the serious responsibility that goes with driving, Christian parents who permit their teen-age sons to drive their car should be certain they are properly trained and counseled. Especially do they need counsel concerning their responsibility to “Caesar” and to God, also counsel not to copy the worldly thrill-seeking youthful drivers who are so often involved in tragic accidents, usually due, somehow, to excessive speed. If any dedicated Christian engages in wild or lawless driving that results in destruction of the property of others or injury to other persons, then the judicial committee of the congregation should take appropriate disciplinary measures.
Moreover, in congregational or other dealings Christians should not require others to be at a certain place or locality at a time that would clearly be impossible to meet without breaking “Caesar’s” speed laws. Sufficient notice should be given to a person so that he can travel at a lawful rate of speed. Thus if someone required a true Christian to travel to a certain place within a certain time and to do so would require violating “Caesar’s” speed laws, then the Christian will choose to obey “Caesar’s” law, taking whatever consequences might come as a result of such obedience. But it could be explained beforehand to a worldly employer, for instance, that the Christian’s conscience will not allow him to break the traffic laws.
Most of the time, however, whether the driver realizes it or not, it is simply a matter of his starting early enough or of changing or reorganizing his schedule to allow sufficient traveling time. Then the Christian will not feel under any pressure or temptation to drive faster than he should. This compliance with the traffic laws of the “superior authorities” will not only help guard against fatal accidents with the possibility of bloodguilt being attached to the driver but also help ensure a good conscience, which is so vital to our eternal salvation.—Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 3:16.