Driver's duty of care in New York. New York City-based bicycle, bike, e-bike, e-scooter personal injury attorneys Glenn & Robin Herman
In the United States, drivers are responsible for making the roads as safe as possible for pedestrians by driving safely. The legal term for this responsibility is “duty of care” to pedestrians. If drivers fail to meet their duty of care, they may be charged with negligence. In this article, personal injury attorneys Glenn & Robin Herman explain drivers’ duty of care to pedestrians in New York.
Driver’s Duty of Care in New York
Your right to operate a vehicle comes with the responsibility of operating that vehicle in a sensible manner. The bare minimum expected of all drivers is to:
Follow all New York State traffic laws and regulations.
Drive with care.
Avoid causing injury to others to the best of their ability.
The definition of duty of care may seem vague, so to fully understand what drivers are responsible for, it is best to look at the opposite of duty of care, which is negligence.
Negligence in New York Traffic Law
Negligent behavior is responsible for the majority of traffic accidents in one form or another. Driving negligently can result in major injuries and even death for all parties involved. Most accidents are caused by one or a combination of several of the following types of negligence:
Failing to follow traffic signs and signals, including stop signs, yield signs, lane closure signs, posted speed limits, and traffic lights.
Failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians or cyclists. Pedestrians have right of way within marked and unmarked crosswalks when traffic signals indicate that they may cross. In crossings without signals, drivers should always yield to pedestrians. Cyclists must follow the same traffic laws as all other vehicles, but due to the high risk of injury for cyclists, drivers are expected to yield to them when appropriate.
Driving while intoxicated. Usually “driving under the influence” and “driving while intoxicated” are phrases usually associated with alcohol, they encompass all mind-altering drugs. This can include some psychiatric and pain medications that affect reaction time, depth perception, and other factors that affect your driving, such as antipsychotics, anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxants, opioid painkillers, motion sickness relief medications, and some stimulants.
Disregarding weather conditions. Responsible drivers should adjust the way they drive to accommodate weather conditions. For example, you need a greater stopping distance when the roads are slick with rain, snow, or ice, so you should leave more space between your car and the car in front of you to ensure that you can brake appropriately. This also includes using windshield wipers, fog lamps, and headlights when necessary and removing obstructions such as ice and pollen from your windshield.
Failing to use signals appropriately. Letting other drivers know what you are doing is essential for allowing them to adjust appropriately. Failing to signal when changing lanes or making turns can cause serious accidents. On the other hand, it is your responsibility to pay attention to signals from other drivers and adjust accordingly.
Inattention and preoccupation. Many accidents are caused by drivers who are simply not paying attention to the road due to a distraction within the car. Texting while driving is a common form of inattention that causes car accidents, but fixing hair or makeup or attending to children, pets, or other passengers also causes many traffic accidents.
Speeding is another common cause of traffic accidents in New York. Not only does speeding reduce the amount of time that drivers have to react to other cars, pedestrians, and cyclists, it also reduces the severity of the accident in terms of both injury and property damage.
Drivers have an additional duty of care that must be paid to children on the road. Children between the ages of five and nine are the most likely to be hit by cars.
New York City Personal Injury Robin Herman wants all operators of cars, buses, trucks, taxis, and other vehicles to know that driving without due care for what is around you can be a serious violation of law in New York with steep consequences. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) § 1146, provides in the relevant part that:
§ 1146. Drivers to exercise due care. (a) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the contrary, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, pedestrian, or domestic animal upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary. For the purposes of this section, the term "domestic animal" shall mean domesticated sheep, cattle, and goats which are under the supervision and control of a pedestrian.
(b) 1. A driver of a motor vehicle who causes physical injury as defined in article ten of the penal law to a pedestrian or bicyclist while failing to exercise due care in violation of subdivision (a) of this section, shall be guilty of a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than fifteen days or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Additionally, Ms. Herman notes that if a Judge or jury finds that a driver violated New York Vehicle and Traffic law §1146, or other specific provisions of the New York VTL, a driver can be held negligent as a matter of law. Oftentimes, a Judge will decide a driver did not operate with due care and is responsible for causing a pedestrians or cyclists’ injuries before the case even gets to a jury. The moral of this story is slow down, look where you are going, do not text or be otherwise distracted when you’re driving, and use due care and common sense.
If you have been the victim of a traffic accident, it is likely that negligence was involved in one way or another. Discuss your compensation options by contacting a New York city personal injury attorney with experience handling traffic accidents.
About New York City-based E-Bike Personal Injury Attorneys Glenn & Robin Herman
Our New York City Personal Injury attorneys take the time to learn every aspect of your case during our initial meeting in order to properly evaluate the full extent of the damages you or a loved one have suffered. We have been representing seriously injured New Yorkers for over 25 years. Born, raised, and living in the City, we know that when you have been injured in this town, you need an attorney to protect your rights and explain the law to you in a way you can understand.
We represent clients in all five boroughs of New York (NY): Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, along with Suffolk County & Nassau County on Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, and throughout the entire state of New York.