700.Basic Standard of Care
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.
New September 2003
Directions for Use
This instruction states the common-law standard of reasonable care in driving. It
applies to negligent conduct that is not covered by provisions of the Vehicle Code:
“Aside from the mandate of the statute, the driver of a motor vehicle is bound to
use reasonable care to anticipate the presence on the streets of other persons having
equal rights with himself to be there.” (Zarzana v. Neve Drug Co. (1919) 180 Cal.
32, 37 [179 P. 203].)
The instructions in this series should be used in conjunction with instructions on
the elements of negligence contained in the negligence series.
Sources and Authority
• 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) 251
Cal.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