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What Are the Pedestrian Right-of-Way Laws in California?

Whether you’re driving or walking in California, it’s important to know pedestrian right-of-way laws to help prevent serious accidents. If a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle, they may suffer broken bones, spinal cord or brain injuries, paralysis, or even death. California has more pedestrian deaths than any other state – more than 25% higher than the national average. Continue reading to learn more about California’s pedestrian right-of-way laws and how to stay safe as both a pedestrian and a driver.

Pedestrian Right-of-Way Laws in California

How Does California Define “Pedestrian”?

Under California law, a pedestrian is someone who is on foot or using a mobility device such as a wheelchair or motorized tricycle. It also includes skateboarders, roller skaters, and people using non-electric scooters. A bicyclist is not considered a pedestrian in California.

What Are Considered “Crosswalks” in California?

California defines a crosswalk as a marked or unmarked crossing that connects sidewalks on opposite sides of the roadway. Marked crosswalks are typically found at traffic lights, stop signs or other traffic-control devices. They have a series of white or yellow parallel painted lines across them. Unmarked crosswalks are areas where pedestrians can cross the road, even if there are no traffic signals or painted lanes. It’s important to note that in California, most intersections are considered crosswalks unless they specifically have a “no crossing” sign posted nearby.

For safety purposes, some of the crosswalks in California feature a stop signal (requiring vehicles to stop before a pedestrian can cross the crosswalk) and crossing lights (which indicate when the pedestrian can cross and counts down the number of seconds until the light changes). These are known as controlled crosswalks.

California’s Pedestrian Right-of-Way Law

According to California’s Vehicle Code, all drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in marked or unmarked crosswalks and may not unnecessarily block intersections or crosswalks. Drivers are required by law to reduce their speed and exercise caution as they approach crosswalks. If a person is walking in the crosswalk, the driver must stop and wait for them to safely cross the roadway. This applies to marked, unmarked, controlled, or uncontrolled crosswalks.

A number of factors typically come into play in a pedestrian accident. Speeding, distracted driving, and driving under the influence are some of the top causes of pedestrian-related accidents. Working with an experienced pedestrian accident attorney can help you determine the exact causes and place liabilities in order to recover damages for your injuries.

Exceptions to California’s Right-of-Way Law

While California law does require vehicles to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, that does not mean that pedestrians always have the right of way. There are a few exceptions to the state’s law.

Pedestrians do have the right-of-way at most crossings, but under California law, they are also responsible for their own safety. A pedestrian should not suddenly leave the curb or sidewalk to run into the path of an oncoming vehicle. They should wait for vehicles that could pose danger. Also, pedestrians should not unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a crosswalk.

There are additional California laws that prohibit pedestrians from going outside the crosswalk at an intersection or walking in the bike lanes.

In January 2023, California enacted the Freedom to Walk Act, which allows pedestrians the right to cross the roadway without a crosswalk, if it’s safe to do so. (Previously, pedestrians were not allowed to cross without a crosswalk). Regardless of this new act, pedestrians should still be on the lookout for oncoming cars and other potential hazards.

California is a Comparative Negligence State

When determining fault in an accident involving a vehicle and a pedestrian, both parties can potentially be held responsible for violating a traffic law or causing an accident. California is a comparative negligence state, meaning that each party could be assigned a percentage of the fault. California courts may hold both the driver and the pedestrian liable for a percentage of any injuries or damages resulting from the incident. That’s why it’s important to understand the traffic laws related to crosswalks and pedestrian safety.

When To Contact An Attorney

Pedestrian accidents can happen anywhere there are people and cars. Shopping centers, parking lots, and driveways are also common locations of pedestrian accidents. Drivers must stay alert and be mindful of their environment when operating a vehicle.

If you have been seriously injured in a pedestrian accident involving a vehicle, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately to help you seek justice and explore all options available for compensation. Contact the offices of Bostwick & Peterson, award-winning personal injury attorneys today to discuss the details of your case.