Every driver on the road is expected to meet certain expectations. These “car driver duties” are considered a contract of sorts.
Drivers essentially sign the contract by accepting a driver’s license and participating in driving activities. As a cooperative and responsible citizen that is given the privilege of operating a vehicle, a driver has a duty to adhere to the “contract.” This includes ensuring the safety of others and the mindful and safe operation of a vehicle.
Duties of a Car Driver
While every state sets its own statutes governing personal injury claims, the duties of car drivers are basically the same everywhere. They include:
- Driving at a safe and reasonable speed given traffic, weather, and road conditions, among other factors. The speed limit is an established maximum but other conditions influence what “reasonable” means under any given circumstances.
- Remaining alert and aware of surroundings and the environment at all times. This includes exercising caution, slowing down, and remaining extra vigilant under certain circumstances, like in poor weather or in a school zone.
- Remaining in control of the vehicle at all times. Drivers are required to be able to swerve or stop quickly, if needed, or otherwise be able to respond fast while also maintaining control of the vehicle.
- Ensure the upkeep and maintenance of the vehicle. Mechanical or equipment failures that cause accidents can make the driver negligent if he or she has failed to keep up with the vehicle’s required maintenance.
Each state also has laws that add to these driver duty basics. Common state additions include:
- Yielding to pedestrians
- Not driving in bike lanes
- Adhering to reduced speed limits in construction areas and school zones
- Never operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs
- Not exceeding the legal limit for blood alcohol levels when operating a vehicle
- Not using a cell phone while driving
What Happens When Drivers are in Breach of Their Duties?
A driver that breaks his or her contract or is in breach of driver duties can be found negligent in a car accident personal injury claim. Failure to follow any of the rules of the road or to meet any of the duties listed above is sufficient cause for pursuing a personal injury claim.
A driver that breaches multiple duties or who is egregiously negligent can suffer significant consequences. He or she may pay higher damages in a car accident claim and might also be subject to punitive damages, if a lawsuit is filed. The police may file criminal charges following car accidents, if the breach of driver duties warrants.