The Responsibilities of Vehicle Drivers

Receiving a license to drive an automobile or other motorized vehicle comes with important responsibilities for the driver. Motorists have an obligation to their passengers, pedestrians, and other vehicles to drive in a responsible manner.

The law requires that a driver use reasonable care when driving a vehicle. Negligence is the failure to drive with such care and is often the basis for liability in an accident.

The reasonable care standard also applies to encounters with pedestrians. While the law usually assigns pedestrians the right of way when crossing streets or similar situations, motorists are not expected to anticipate pedestrian movements. However, drivers should look out for individuals and honk the horn to alert an unsuspecting pedestrian.

Drivers are also responsible for taking the proper care concerning the safety of their passengers. However, the driver is not liable if a passenger is injured through no fault of the driver.

When a vehicle owner is a passenger in his or her own car, the law views the owner as still in
control. If the motorist drives irresponsibly, the owner is expected to intervene.

When a vehicle owner allows another person to drive the car, some legal responsibility may still exist for the owner. Liability in an accident can consist of personal injuries--including death--and vehicle or property damage. If an owner allows a driver who is incompetent--because of inexperience or intoxication--to operate the vehicle, the owner could be held liable in any accident that occurs. If an owner allows someone to drive his vehicle, which he knows to be defective, the owner may have liability in an accident.

If you hit a parked car, you are responsible for notifying the owner. Leaving a written note with your name, vehicle description, and car tag number will suffice.

In the case of any accident in which injuries or damage occurs, you should notify the police and, as soon as possible, your insurance company.

Having a driver's license and operating a vehicle are privileges that come with legal responsibilities for the safety and care of you, your passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians. Knowing these obligations and practicing reasonable care in driving helps ensure safety on the roadways and decreases the chance of accidents.