LARRY V. CAMINOS, JR. vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 147437, May 8, 2009
D E C I S I O N
The right of a person using public streets and highways for travel in relation to other motorists is mutual, coordinate and reciprocal. He is bound to anticipate the presence of other persons whose rights on the street or highway are equal to his own. Although he is not an insurer against injury to persons or property, it is nevertheless his duty to operate his motor vehicle with due and reasonable care and caution under the circumstances for the safety of others as well as for his own.
X x x.
Reckless imprudence generally defined by our penal law consists in voluntarily but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or failing to perform such act, taking into consideration his employment or occupation, degree of intelligence, physical condition and other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.
Imprudence connotes a deficiency of action. It implies a failure in precaution or a failure to take the necessary precaution once the danger or peril becomes foreseen. Thus, something more than mere negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle is necessary to constitute the offense of reckless driving, and a willful and wanton disregard of the consequences is required. Willful, wanton or reckless disregard for the safety of others within the meaning of reckless driving statutes has been held to involve a conscious choice of a course of action which injures another, either with knowledge of serious danger to others involved, or with knowledge of facts which would disclose the danger to any reasonable person.
Hence, in prosecutions for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property, whether or not one of the drivers of the colliding automobiles is guilty of the offense is a question that lies in the manner and circumstances of the operation of the motor vehicle, and a finding of guilt beyond reasonable doubt requires the concurrence of the following elements, namely, (a) that the offender has done or failed to do an act; (b) that the act is voluntary; (c) that the same is without malice; (d) that material damage results; and (e) that there has been inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the offender.
Among the elements constitutive of the offense, what perhaps is most central to a finding of guilt is the conclusive determination that the accused has exhibited, by his voluntary act without malice, an inexcusable lack of precaution because it is that which supplies the criminal intent so indispensable as to bring an act of mere negligence and imprudence under the operation of the penal law. This, because a conscious indifference to the consequences of the conduct is all that that is required from the standpoint of the frame of mind of the accused, that is, without regard to whether the private offended party may himself be considered likewise at fault.
Inasmuch as the Revised Penal Code, however, does not detail what particular act or acts causing damage to property may be characterized as reckless imprudence, certainly, as with all criminal prosecutions, the inquiry as to whether the accused could be held liable for the offense is a question that must be addressed by the facts and circumstances unique to a given case. Thus, if we must determine whether petitioner in this case has shown a conscious indifference to the consequences of his conduct, our attention must necessarily drift to the most fundamental factual predicate. And we proceed from petitioner’s contention that at the time the collision took place, he was carefully driving the car as he in fact approached the intersection on second gear and that his speed allegedly was somewhere between 25 and 30 kph which under normal conditions could be considered so safe and manageable as to enable him to bring the car to a full stop when necessary.
Aside from the entry in the TAIR, however, which noted petitioner’s speed to be beyond what is lawful, the physical evidence on record likewise seems to negate petitioner’s contention. The photographs taken of
car clearly show that the extent of the damage to it could not have been caused
by petitioner’s car running on second gear at the speed of 25-30 kph. The fact that the hood of Arnold’s car was
violently wrenched as well as the fact that on impact the car even turned
around 180 degrees and was hurled several feet away from the junction to the
outer lane of Ortigas Avenue—when in fact Arnold had already established his
turn to the left on the inner lane and into the opposite lane—clearly
demonstrate that the force of the collision had been created by a speed way
beyond what petitioner’s estimation. Arnold
Rate of speed, in connection with other circumstances, is one of the principal considerations in determining whether a motorist has been reckless in driving an automobile, and evidence of the extent of the damage caused may show the force of the impact from which the rate of speed of the vehicle may be modestly inferred. While an adverse inference may be gathered with respect to reckless driving from proof of excessive speed under the circumstances—as in this case where the TAIR itself shows that petitioner approached the intersection in excess of lawful speed—such proof raises the presumption of imprudent driving which may be overcome by evidence, or, as otherwise stated, shifts the burden of proof so as to require the accused to show that under the circumstances he was not driving in a careless or imprudent manner.
We find, however, that petitioner has not been able to discharge that burden inasmuch as the physical evidence on record is heavy with conviction way more than his bare assertion that his speed at the time of the incident was well within what is controllable. Indeed, the facts of this case do warrant a finding that petitioner, on approach to the junction, was traveling at a speed far greater than that conveniently fixed in his testimony. Insofar as such facts are consistent with that finding, their truth must reasonably be admitted.
Speeding, moreover, is indicative of imprudent behavior because a motorist is bound to exercise such ordinary care and drive at a reasonable rate of speed commensurate with the conditions encountered on the road. What is reasonable speed, of course, is necessarily subjective as it must conform to the peculiarities of a given case but in all cases, it is that which will enable the driver to keep the vehicle under control and avoid injury to others using the highway. This standard of reasonableness is actually contained in Section 35 of R.A. No. 4136. It states:
SEC. 35. Restriction as to speed.—(a) Any person driving a motor vehicle on a highway shall drive the same at a careful and prudent speed, not greater nor less than is reasonable and proper, having due regard for the traffic, the width of the highway, and of any other condition then and there existing; and no person shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway at such speed as to endanger the life, limb and property of any person, nor at a speed greater than will permit him to bring the vehicle to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead.
Even apart from statutory regulations as to speed, a motorist is nevertheless expected to exercise ordinary care and drive at a reasonable rate of speed commensurate with all the conditions encountered  which will enable him to keep the vehicle under control and, whenever necessary, to put the vehicle to a full stop to avoid injury to others using the highway. 
It is must be stressed that this restriction on speed assumes more importance where the motorist is approaching an intersection. Ordinary or reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle at an intersection would naturally require more precaution than is necessary when driving elsewhere in a street or highway. A driver approaching an intersection is generally under duty, among others, to be vigilant and to have the vehicle under control as to be able to stop at the shortest possible notice, that is, he must look for vehicles that might be approaching from within the radius that denotes the limit of danger.
Since compliance with this duty is measured by whether an approaching motorist has exercised the level of precaution required under the circumstances, then with more reason that he exhibit a relatively higher level of care when the intersection is blind at the point where the roads meet. In other words, where the view at an intersection is obstructed and an approaching motorist cannot get a good view to the right or left until he is close to the intersection, prudence would dictate that he take particular care to observe the traffic before entering the intersection or otherwise use reasonable care to avoid a collision, which means that he is bound is to move with the utmost caution until it is determinable that he can proceed safely and at the slowest speed possible so that the vehicle could be stopped within the distance the driver can see ahead.
On this score, what brings certain failure in petitioner’s case is his own admission that he had not seen
car making a left turn at the intersection.
Of course, there had been an arduous debate at the trial as to whether
Arnold’s car was in motion or at a full stop at the intersection moments before
the collision; nevertheless, inasmuch as he (Arnold), as shown by the evidence,
had been able to establish himself at the intersection significantly ahead of
petitioner, it defies logic to accord even a semblance of truth to petitioner’s
assertion that he had not seen Arnold’s car entering the intersection laterally
from his left especially when the said car admittedly had already taken two
feet of the other lane of the road—the lane on which petitioner was proceeding
to cross—and well beyond the median line of the intersecting road on which
Arnold proceeded after making the turn.
Indeed, not even the fact that the view at the intersection was blocked
by the flower bed on the traffic island could provide an excuse for petitioner
as it has likewise been established that he approached the intersection at such
a speed that could not, as in fact it did not, enable him to arrest his
momentum and forestall the certainty of the collision. Arnold
It can only be surmised at this point that petitioner had inexcusably fallen short of the standard of care in a situation which called for more precaution on the highway in failing to make an observation in the interest at least of his own safety whether or not it was safe to enter the crossing. Since he is chargeable with what he should have observed only had he exercised the commensurate care required under the circumstances of the case, the inescapable conclusion is that he had inexcusably breached the elementary duties of a responsible, prudent and reasonable motorist.
In general, the degree of care and attention required of a driver in a particular case in exercising reasonable care will vary with and must be measured in the light of all the surrounding circumstances, such that it must be commensurate with the dangers which are to be anticipated and the injuries which are likely to result from the use of the vehicle. In other words, he must observe a sense of proportionality between precaution and the peculiar risks attendant or even inherent in the condition of the road which are open to ordinary observation. The ultimate test, in other words, is to be found in the reasonable foreseeability that harm might result if commensurate care is not exercised. It is not necessary, however, that a motorist actually foresee the probability of harm or that the particular injury which resulted was foreseeable; it would suffice that he, in the position of an ordinary prudent man, knowing what he knew or should have known, anticipate that harm of a general nature as that suffered was to materialize. The evidence in this case is teeming with suggestion that petitioner had failed to foresee the certainty of the collision that was about to happen as he entered the junction in question especially considering that his lateral vision at the intersection was blocked by the structures on the road. In the same way, he failed to solidly establish that such failure to foresee the danger lurking on the road could be deemed excusable as indeed his contention that he was running at a safe speed is totally negated by the evidence derived from the physical facts of the case.
Yet, petitioner clings to a chance of acquittal. In his petition, he theorizes that the negligence of
, which according to the Court of
Appeals was incipient in character, was actually the principal determining
factor which caused the mishap and the fact that the TAIR indicated that Arnold had no right of
way, it is he himself who had the status of a favored driver. The contention is utterly without merit. Arnold
In traffic law parlance, the term “right of way” is understood as the right of one vehicle to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another approaching vehicle under such circumstances of direction, speed and proximity as to give rise to a danger of collision unless one of the vehicles grants precedence to the other. Although there is authority to the effect that the right of way is merely of statutory creation and exists only according to express statutory provision, it is generally recognized, where no statute or ordinance governs the matter, that the vehicle first entering an intersection is entitled to the right of way, and it becomes the duty of the other vehicle likewise approaching the intersection to proceed with sufficient care to permit the exercise of such right without danger of collisions.
In our setting, the right of way rule is governed by Section 42 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 4136, which materially provides:
Section 42. Right of Way.
(a) When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right of way to the vehicle on the right, except as otherwise hereinafter provided. The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right which he might otherwise have hereunder.
(b) The driver of a vehicle approaching but not having entered an intersection shall yield the right of a way to a vehicle within such intersection or turning therein to the left across the line of travel of such first-mentioned vehicle, provided the driver of the vehicle turning left has given a plainly visible signal of intention to turn as required in this Act. x x x.
The provision governs the situation when two vehicles approach the intersection from the same direction and one of them intends make a turn on either side of the road. But the rule embodied in the said provision, also prevalent in traffic statutes in the United States, has also been liberally applied to a situation in which two vehicles approach an intersection from directly opposite directions at approximately the same time on the same street and one of them attempts to make a left-hand turn into the intersecting street, so as to put the other upon his right, the vehicle making the turn being under the duty of yielding to the other.
Nevertheless, the right of way accorded to vehicles approaching an intersection is not absolute in terms. It is actually subject to and is affected by the relative distances of the vehicles from the point of intersection. Thus, whether one of the drivers has the right of way or, as sometimes stated, has the status of a favored driver on the highway, is a question that permeates a situation where the vehicles approach the crossing so nearly at the same time and at such distances and speed that if either of them proceeds without regard to the other a collision is likely to occur. Otherwise stated, the statutory right of way rule under Section 42 of our traffic law applies only where the vehicles are approaching the intersection at approximately the same time and not where one of the vehicles enter the junction substantially in advance of the other.
Whether two vehicles are approaching the intersection at the same time does not necessarily depend on which of the vehicles enters the intersection first. Rather, it is determined by the imminence of collision when the relative distances and speeds of the two vehicles are considered. It is said that two vehicles are approaching the intersection at approximately the same time where it would appear to a reasonable person of ordinary prudence in the position of the driver approaching from the left of another vehicle that if the two vehicles continued on their courses at their speed, a collision would likely occur, hence, the driver of the vehicle approaching from the left must give the right of precedence to the driver of the vehicle on his right.
Nevertheless, the rule requiring the driver on the left to yield the right of way to the driver on the right on approach to the intersection, no duty is imposed on the driver on the left to come to a dead stop, but he is merely required to approach the intersection with his vehicle under control so that he may yield the right of way to a vehicle within the danger zone on his right. He is not bound to wait until there is no other vehicle on his right in sight before proceeding to the intersection but only until it is reasonably safe to proceed. Thus, in Adzuara v. Court of Appeals, it was established that a motorist crossing a thru-stop street has the right of way over the one making a turn; but if the person making the turn has already negotiated half of the turn and is almost on the other side so that he is already visible to the person on the thru-street, he is bound to give way to the former.
Moreover, in a prosecution for reckless or dangerous driving, the negligence of the person who was injured or who was the driver of the motor vehicle with which the accused’s vehicle collided does not constitute a defense. In fact, even where such driver is said to be guilty of a like offense, proof thereof may never work favors to the case of the accused. In other words, proof that the offended party was also negligent or imprudent in the operation of his automobile bears little weight, if at all, at least for purposes of establishing the accused’s culpability beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, even if we are to hypothesize that Arnold was likewise negligent in neglecting to keep a proper lookout as he took a left turn at the intersection, such negligence, contrary to petitioner’s contention, will nevertheless not support an acquittal. At best, it will only determine the applicability of several other rules governing situations where concurring negligence exists and only for the purpose of arriving at a proper assessment of the award of damages in favor of the private offended party.
But it must be asked: do the facts of the case support a finding that
negligent in executing the left turn?
The answer is in the negative. It
is as much unsafe as it is unjust to assume that Arnold , just because the TAIR so indicated
that he at the time had no right of way, that
Arnold had performed a risky maneuver at the
intersection in failing to keep a proper lookout for oncoming vehicles. In fact, aside from petitioner’s bare and
self-serving assertion that Arnold’s fault was the principal determining cause
of the mishap as well as his allegation that it was actually Arnold’s car that
came colliding with his car, there is no slightest suggestion in the records
that could tend to negate what the physical evidence in this case has
established. Clearly, it was
petitioner’s negligence, as pointed out by the OSG, that proximately caused the
Finally, on the issue of damages, inasmuch as petitioner had not extended efforts to present countervailing evidence disproving the extent and cost of the damage sustained by
’s car, the award
assessed and ordered by the trial court must stand. Arnold
All told, it must be needlessly emphasized that the measure of a motorist’s duty is such care as is, under the facts and circumstances of the particular case, commensurate with the dangers which are to be anticipated and the injuries which are likely to result from the use of the vehicle, and in proportion to or commensurate with the peculiar risk attendant on the circumstances and conditions in the particular case, the driver being under the duty to know and to take into consideration those circumstances and factors affecting the safe operation of the vehicle which would be open to ordinary observation.
X x x.
Richards v. Begenstos, 21 N.W.2d 23; Hodges v. Smith, 298 S.W. 1023; Lawson v. Fordyce, 12 N.W.2d 301.
Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Owen, 101 S.W.2d 354.
Atlantic Greyhound Corp. v.
Lyon, 107 F.2d 157; Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. v. McKee, 121 F.2d 583.
Burdick v. Powell Bros. Truck Lines, 124 F.2d 694; Dixie Motor Coach Corp. v. Lane, 116 F.2d 264; Shipley v. Komer, 154 F.2d 861.
Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Owen, 101 S.W.2d 354.
The REvised Penal Code, Reyes, Luis B., 15th ed. (2001) p. 995.
The Revised Penal Code, Reyes, Luis B., 15th ed. (2001) pp. 994-995.
People v. Paarlberg, 612 N.E.2d 106 (1933); People v. Crawford, 467 N.W.2d 818 (1991); Wood v. City of
, 683 P.2d 1147
(1984); State v. Houser, 626 P.2d 256
(1981); State v. Boydston, 609 P.2d
224 (1980); State v. Tamanaha, 377
P.2d 688 (1962). Casper
Wofford v. State, 395 S.E.2d 630 (1990); Shorter v. State, 122 N.E.2d 847 (1954); White v. State, 647 S.W.2d 751 (1983).
7A Am. Jur. 2d, pp. 861-862.
The Revised Penal Code, Reyes, Luis B., 15th ed. (2001) p. 995.
White v. State, 647 S.W.2d 751 (1983).
People v. Ackroyd, 543 N.Y.S.2d 848 (1989).
52 A.L.R.2d 1343.
Knuth v. Murphy, 54 N.W.2d 771. This case held that evidence of the extent of personal injuries is competent to show the force of the impact as a basis for an inference of the rate of speed of the vehicle.
v. State, 16 So.2d 628; People v. Sanford , 44 N.Y.S.2d 76. Whitby
People v. Devoe, 159 N.E. 682; People v.
, 44 N.Y.S.2d 76. Whitby
People v. Carrie, 204 N.Y.S. 759.
People v. Herman, 20 N.Y.S.2d 149.
See Woodson v. Germas, 104 S.E.2d 739.
Gabriel v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128474,
6 October 2004,
440 SCRA 136, 148-149.
Foster v. ConAgra Poultry Co., 670 So.2d 471.
Nunn v. Financial Indem.
694 So.2d 630. Duty of reasonable care includes duty to keep the vehicle under
control and to maintain proper lookout for hazards.
Roberts v. Leahy, 214 P.2d 673.
Reppert v. White Star Lines, 106 A.L.R. 413; Riccio v. Ginsberg, 62 A.L.R. 967.
473 N.W.2d 392. School District of Tecumseh
Kane v. Locke, 12 N.W.2d 495;
v. Detamore, 93 S.E.2d 314. Shelton
Matthews v. Patton, 123 A.2d 667.
Henthorn v. M.G.C.Corp., 83 N.W.2d 759.
Reed v. Stroh, 128 P.2d 829; Butcher v. Thornhill, 58 P.2d 179.
Reed v. Stroh, 128 P.2d 829; Tucker v. Ragland-Potter Co., 148 S.W.2d 691.
Webb v. Smith, 10 S.E. 2d 503; Le Master v. Fort Worth Transit Co., 142 S.W.2d 908.
Figlar v. Gordon, 53 A.2d 645.
Burrows v. Jacobsen, 311 N.W.2d 880 (1981).
Betchkal v. Willis, 378 N.W.2d 684 (1985).
Creech v. Blackwell, 298 S.W.2d 394.
 Entitled “An Act to Compile the Laws Relative to Land Transportation and Traffic Rules, To Create a Land Transportation Commission and for Other Purposes.” The law was approved on
20 June 1964.
McCarthy v. Beckwith, 141 N.E. 126; Arvo v. Delta Hardware Co., 204 N.W. 134; Cohen v. Silverman, 190 N.W. 795; Webber v. Park Auto Transp. Co., 47 A.L.R. 590.
Wlodkowski v. Yerkaitis, 57 A.2d 792.
Reynolds v. Madison Bus Co., 26 N.W. 2d 653.
Wilmes v. Mihelich, 25 N.W.2d 833.
v. Kujath, 29 N.W.2d 883. Moore
v. Kujath, 29 N.W.2d 883. Moore
Metzger v. Cushman’s Sons, 152 N.E. 695.
G.R. No. 125134,
22 January 1999,
301 SCRA 657.
State v. Blake, 255 N.W. 108.
State v. Sullivan, 277 N.W. 230.
Reed v. Stroh, 128 P.2d 829.
 Webb v. Smith, 10 S.E. 2d 503; Le Master v. Fort Worth Transit Co., 142 S.W.2d 908.