What Duties do Drivers Owe to Others on the Road?


Every driver is required to exercise reasonable caution behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. At a bare minimum, every driver must obey New York State traffic laws, drive cautiously, and do their best to avoid causing injury to others. Although this might seem like common sense, there are many surprising examples of behaviors that disregard the reasonable standard of care. In one form or another, negligence is responsible for the majority of all car crashes.

What is Negligence?

When a driver breaches their duty of reasonable care and that breach causes injury or property damage to another, that driver can be held liable. Accident victims rely on the legal theory of negligence to show that a driver is legally responsible. Driving negligently usually entails performing a senseless act or failing to act when necessary.

Evaluating whether a driver lived up to their legal duty is fact-specific and varies significantly on a case-by-case basis. Even if a particular action is not a breach of duty in one instance, that does not mean that it would not be a breach under other circumstances. Furthermore, operating a vehicle within the legal limits is not always enough. For instance, a driver may be going the speed limit, but conditions such as traffic, heavy rainfall, or low visibility could be such that a reasonably prudent driver would drive even slower.

Examples of Negligent Actions and Inactions Behind the Wheel

There are numerous reasons that a driver may be found to have breached their legal duty of care. Below are some examples of drivers’ actions that violate their duties to others:

  1. Talking or texting while driving;
  2. Eating or drinking behind the wheel;
  3. Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
  4. Tailgating;
  5. Speeding;
  6. Running a stop sign or red light;
  7. Driving while excessively tired; and
  8. Putting on makeup while driving.

Instances of drivers violating their duties by failing to act when they should have may include the following:

  1. Inattentive driving;
  2. Not using headlights while driving at night;
  3. Failing to spot pedestrians crossing the street;
  4. Forgetting to signal when switching lanes or turning;
  5. Not yielding to the right-of-way;
  6. Neglecting to make necessary repairs;
  7. Skipping crucial routine maintenance; and
  8. Failing to slow down in school or construction zones.

Consult with a Veteran Buffalo, New York Car Accident Lawyer

If you, or a family member, were gravely injured in a car accident, Jed Dietrich, Esq., distinguished as an American Institute of Trial Lawyers Litigator of the Year, and his highly experienced team of car accident attorneys are here to help. Car accident victims may be entitled to pursue monetary compensation for hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, loss of consortium, disfigurement, and unanticipated damages. Our battle-tested team of attorneys is available 24/7 by calling 716-839-3939 or by completing our online consultation form.

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