California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

703. Definition of “Immediate Hazard”

The statute just read to you uses the words “immediate hazard.” An immediate hazard exists if the approaching vehicle is so near or is approaching so fast that a reasonably careful person would realize that there is a danger of collision [or accident].

New September 2003

Directions for Use

This instruction is designed to be given as a supplement to the several Vehicle Code provisions that contain the term “immediate hazard.” (Veh. Code, §§ 21802 [Approaching intersection entrance], 21803 [Yield right of way], 21804 [Public or private property], 21805 [Equestrian crossings], 21950 [Crosswalks], 21953 [Tunnel or overhead crossing], 21954 [Pedestrian outside crosswalk], 22451 [Train signals].)

Sources and Authority

  • “It is to be noted that the legislature has not set a hard and fast rule for the conduct of drivers approaching through highways but has provided the general rule that such drivers must yield the right of way to others traveling on the highway who are approaching so closely as to constitute ‘an immediate hazard.’ Our complex traffic problems are such that the circumstances of the traffic on a through highway as a driver approaches must govern his conduct in determining whether it is an immediate hazard. Whether a driver acts with due care or negligently in proceeding across a through highway must as a general rule be left to the determination of the jury in view of all the circumstances.” (Wilkinson v. Marcellus (1952) 51 Cal.App.2d 630, 633 [125 P.2d 584].)
  • At least one court has held that the term “immediate hazard” should be defined for the jury if a party so requests. (Hickenbottom v. Jeppesen (1956) 144 Cal.App.2d 115, 121 [300 P.2d 689].) However, any error in failing to define the term will be considered harmless if other instructions cover that point: “The words ‘immediate hazard’ seem reasonably clear in the context in which they appear, both in the statute and in the instruction given; the hazard of a collision.” (Ibid.)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 879, 880

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 4.10–4.11