What is a California Drivers "Increased Duty" Around Children?

Sadly, children are involved in a majority of bicycle accidents with cars.  This is all too true on busy California roadways and streets. In regards to children on bicycles, drivers are obligated to exercise an increased or heightened duty of care. Adults are expected to react better in emergency situations than children because of life experience and hand eye coordination. All drivers are always required to exercise reasonable care regarding others on the road, the amount of care drivers must reasonably show increases when children, particularly young children, are involved. The younger the child, the higher the duty you could say.  Likewise, children are held to a lower standard of care in terms of the carefulness they can be expected to show while riding bicycles.  Again, life experience and hand eye coordinations are expected to be lower with kids than adults.

When speaking about bicycle accident injury cases involving either adult or child bicyclists, the driver's liability most often depends on whether he or she was at fault (negligent), and whether that negligence caused the accident (to what degree). Whether the cyclist was a child or an adult, the driver must exercise reasonable care in the given circumstances.  This is the general rule in all injury cases. Again, when children are present, the amount of care and precaution which is reasonable increases. Here is one good example:  California drivers should expect that particularly young children might suddenly cross into the street or get scared if the driver approaches too fast.  Sometimes children get stunned easily in dangerous situations and do not react right away; a lot of times they are just frozen in fear or their little legs cannot run or move away from danger fast enough.

If a driver knows or reasonably should expect that children may be present, the driver must show increased care (sometimes called "unusual care"). If a driver sees children, or drives through a place often frequented by children, the driver must pay closer attention and be prepared to stop or turn suddenly if need be. Drivers must be on increased look-out when driving in or around schools, parks, school bus stops, residential neighborhoods, trailer parks and other places where children can be expected.  Now, this is not to say that all drivers are presumed negligent any time they collide with a child on a bicycle.  That cannot be said in all cases.  In cases where the driver showed all the precaution reasonably possible which can be expected but still could not avoid the child and vehicle accident, the driver has satisfied the increased duty of care and should not be found negligent.  Each case must be reviewed with all facts.