CACI 701 Definition of Right-of-Way

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

701 Definition of Right-of-Way

When the law requires a [driver/pedestrian] to “yield the right-of-way” to [another/a] [vehicle/pedestrian], this means that the [driver/pedestrian] must let the [other] [vehicle/pedestrian] go first.

Even if someone has the right-of-way, that person must use reasonable care to avoid an accident.

Directions for Use

This instruction should be given following a reading of the appropriate Vehicle Code section.

If the case involves a statutory right-of-way, the jury could also be given instructions on negligence per se, if applicable.

Sources and Authority

“Right of Way” Defined. Vehicle Code section 525.

Intersection Right of Way. Vehicle Code section 21800.

Left Turn Right of Way. Vehicle Code section 21801.

Approaching Entrance to Intersection. Vehicle Code section 21802.

Intersection Controlled by Yield Right-of-Way Sign. Vehicle Code section 21803.

Entry Onto Highway. Vehicle Code section 21804.

Equestrian Crossings. Vehicle Code section 21805.

Authorized Emergency Vehicles. Vehicle Code section 21806.

“Right of way rules have been described as simply establishing ‘a practical basis for necessary courtesy on the highway.’ ” (Eagar v. McDonnell Douglas Corp. (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 116, 122 [107 Cal.Rptr. 819].)

“[A] driver entering a public highway from private property who collides with a vehicle traveling on the public road is not necessarily liable for a violation of [Vehicle Code] section 21804. Rather, the driver violates this section only if he or she fails to act as a ‘ “reasonably prudent and cautious [person].” ’ Whether the driver failed to so act is a question of fact for the trier of fact to decide.” (Spriesterbach v. Holland (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 255, 266 [155 Cal.Rptr.3d 306], internal citation omitted.)

“Of course, even if [defendant] had the right of way, he had a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid an accident, and the jury was so instructed.” (Eagar, supra, 32 Cal.App.3d. at p. 123, fn. 3, internal citation omitted.)

“Where a car has actually entered an intersection before the other approaches it, the driver of the first car has the right to assume that he will be given the right of way and be permitted to pass through the intersection without danger of collision. He has a right to assume that the driver of the other car will obey the law, slow down, and yield the right of way, if slowing down be necessary to prevent a collision.” (Minnegren v. Nozar (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 500, 508 [208 Cal.Rptr.3d 655].)

“When, as here, each motorist has acted reasonably and the pedestrian has failed to exercise due care for her own safety, the law of this state does not permit the technical violation of the pedestrian’s right of way statute to impose negligence on the motorists as a matter of law. The statute creates a preferential, but not absolute, right in favor of the pedestrian who is still under a duty to exercise ordinary care.” (Byrne v. City and County of San Francisco (1980) 113 Cal.App.3d 731, 742 [170 Cal.Rptr. 302].)

“ ‘Even where a right of way is given by statute, if conditions so require it to avoid injury to others, the right of way must be yielded.’ ” (Bove v. Beckman (1965) 236 Cal.App.2d 555, 563 [46 Cal.Rptr. 164], internal citation omitted.)

“Although such a driver may have the right-of-way, he is not absolved of the duty to exercise ordinary care; may not proceed blindly in disregard of an obvious danger; and must be watchful of the direction in which danger is most likely to be apprehended.” (Malone v. Perryman (1964) 226 Cal.App.2d 227, 234 [37 Cal.Rptr. 864].)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§  1010, 1011
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) Automobiles, § 4.15
2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 20, Motor Vehicles, § 20.68 (Matthew Bender)
8 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 82, Automobiles: Causes of Action, §§ 82.10, 82.68 (Matthew Bender)
California Civil Practice: Torts § 25:26 (Thomson Reuters)