Car Driver Standard of Care Definition Law

A person must use reasonable care in driving a vehicle. Drivers must keep a lookout for pedestrians, obstacles, and other vehicles. They must also control the speed and movement of their vehicles. The failure to use reasonable care in driving a vehicle is negligence.

  • Care of DriverDegree of Care–The degree of care required of a motorist in watching movements of a particular automobile depends on facts and circumstances existing at the time and place, the driver being required to use only that degree of care which would be required of a reasonably prudent driver under similar circumstancesWhitford v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 136 Cal. App. 2d 697
  • The common-law duty supplements statutory driving regulations: “[A driver is] under a duty, both by statute and common law, to operate his vehicle without negligence so as to abstain from injuring any other person or his property.” (Bewley v. Riggs (1968) 262 Cal.App.2d 188, 194 [68 Cal.Rptr. 520].)

  • The standard of care is that of a reasonably careful person under the circumstances: “[The driver] was required to act as a reasonably prudent person under the same or similar circumstances ”  (Watkins v. Ohman (1967) 251Cal.App.2d 501, 502-503 [59 Cal.Rptr. 709].)

  • “ ‘The degree of care required in watching the movements of a particular machine depends upon the facts and circumstances existing at the time and place of the accident’ and a driver is required to use that degree of care, only, which would be required of a reasonably prudent driver under similar circumstances.” (Whitford v. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (1955) 136 Cal.App.2d 697, 702 [289 P.2d 278], internal citations omitted.)

  • The common-law requirement goes to the issues of lookout and control. Regardless of whether a driver was complying with the speed limit, “[he was] still bound to anticipate that he might meet persons at any point of the street and in order to avoid a charge of negligence he was bound to use ordinary care and to keep an ordinarily careful lookout for such persons and keep his machine under such control as would enable him to avoid a collision.” (Boccalero v. Wadleigh (1931) 113 Cal.App. 376, 379, [298 P. 526], internal citation omitted.)

  • “The operator of a vehicle must keep a proper lookout for other vehicles or persons on the highway and must keep his car under such control as will enable him to avoid a collision; failure to keep such a lookout constitutes negligence.” (Downing v. Barrett Mobile Home Transport, Inc. (1974) 38 Cal.App.3d 519, 524 [113 Cal.Rptr. 277].)

  • On the lookout requirement, one court observed: “The driver of an automobile is bound to use reasonable care to anticipate the presence on the highway of others who have equal right to be there and the fact that his vision is temporarily interfered with, either by the glaring sun or headlights, does not relieve him from that duty.” (Hill v. Peres (1934) 136 Cal.App. 132, 137.

  • On the control requirement, one court observed: “Cases in which the problem has been presented adhere to the view that a driver must at all times exercise ordinary care to avoid a collision including swerving or altering his course, in addition to applying his brakes, if that would be a reasonable means of avoiding the collision.” (Guyton v. City of Los Angeles (1959) 174 Cal.App.2d 354, 362 [344 P.2d 910].)

  • “The age of a minor who operates a motor vehicle will not excuse him from liability for driving it in a negligent manner, and he will be required to meet the standard established primarily for adults.” (Prichard v. Veterans Cab Co. (1965) 63 Cal.2d 727, 732 [47 Cal.Rptr. 904, 408 P.2d 360].)

  • Drivers with mental disabilities are required to exercise the ordinary care required of an adult without such disability. (Fox v. City and County of San Francisco (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 164, 173 [120 Cal.Rptr. 779].)

Jury Trials, Jury Instructions
Where the sufficiency of evidence is at issue, inquiry is limited on review to whether the record shows “slight or, at least, some evidence upon the issue. In order to find that the giving of any certain jury instruction was not warranted by the evidence, the appellate court must find that, as a matter of law, there is in the record not even slight or inconclusive evidence on the point covered by the instruction. The appellate court must, therefore, examine the evidence, and the reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom, in the manner most favorable to the prevailing party, resolving all conflicts in the evidence so as to uphold the judgment.

Stanton v. Dohmann, 271 Cal. App. 2d 488

  • Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury. Whether or not a defendant was guilty of negligence or plaintiff was guilty of contributory negligence is ordinarily a question of mixed fact and law and may be determined as a matter of law only if reasonable men following the law can draw but one conclusion from the evidence presented. Stanton v. Dohmann, 271 Cal. App. 2d 488
  • Defenses, Comparative Fault. If there is any substantial evidence from which a jury could have found that a plaintiff was contributorily negligent, it is proper to give the instruction on that subject. If there is not, it is improper. Negligence, while usually a question of fact, may be a question of law. Whether it is the latter depends upon the circumstances of the particular case. If there is no conflict in the evidence or in the inferences to be drawn therefrom, the question becomes one of law.  Whitford v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 136 Cal. App. 2d 697
  • Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury.  Generally it is negligence as a matter of law for the driver of a car to fail to look ahead before proceeding. Since it is manifestly impossible for one driving along a street to look in both directions at the same time, it ordinarily should be left to the jury to determine in each case what amount of vigilance would be required to constitute care. Usually, looking only in one direction without ascertaining whether the other direction is clear may be found to be a violation of duty. But if the driver looks first in one direction and then in the other, and sees no oncoming traffic that might affect his operations, the question of his due care should be left to the trier of the facts. Although the duty of ordinary care may not be satisfied in all cases by looking only once in a certain direction, ordinarily the question whether the driver should have looked or listened a second or third time before starting to cross the intersection, is one of fact for the determination of the jury as one upon which ordinary minds may differ. Whitford v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 136 Cal. App. 2d 697

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