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How Does California’s “Basic Speed Law” Protect Against Pedestrian Accidents?

California has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the US, with about 1,100 deaths every year. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, pedestrian fatalities increased by 46% over the last decade and continue to rise. Cities such as Bakersfield, Stockton, Fresno, and San Bernardino consistently make the list of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians.

When a pedestrian is in an accident with a motor vehicle, the pedestrian almost always loses. That’s because they do not have enough protection against larger vehicles. Pedestrians do not benefit from safety features like steel frames, airbags, and seatbelts. If an accident happens, the injuries can be very serious. The most common pedestrian accident injuries include broken bones, concussion, internal organ injuries, spinal injurytraumatic brain injury – or even death.

Over the years, California has taken a number of measures to protect pedestrians against deadly accidents with motor vehicles, including Vision Zero, Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements, and roundabouts. But the most widely recognized regulation is the state’s Basic Speed Law.

What is the Basic Speed Law?

TheBasic Speed Law stipulates that “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which engenders the safety of persons or property.”

In other words, California motorists should always be mindful of the other vehicles and pedestrians around them and drive at a speed that is safe for the current road conditions. That safe speed may be far below the posted speed limit.

How Does California Determine a “Reasonable” Speed?

According to the California Vehicle Code, the maximum speed limit is 65 mph on most state highways and 55 mph on two-lane undivided highways. The speed limit in residence districts, business districts, school zones, and near senior citizen facilities is 25 mph.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles states that “proper speed” is based on several factors including traffic congestion, road surfaces, and the current weather conditions. Drivers should also be prepared to slow down in school zones, railroad crossings, alleys, and near a bus, street car, or trolley.

Concerning pedestrians, drivers should always slow down when approaching those walking on the sidewalk or trying to cross the street. Motorists must yield to pedestrians walking in marked and unmarked intersections or walkways, as pedestrians always have the right of way in California. The idea behind the Basic Speed Law is that if drivers take the responsibility to slow down when they are near pedestrians, an accident is less likely to happen.

What Happens If You Violate the Basic Speed Law?

Speeding is a significant factor in the number and severity of car crashes in California. To help enforce the Basic Speed Law, state lawmakers also established some serious penalties. If drivers violate the Basic Speed Law or drive faster than the maximum speed limit, they could face a fine of up to $500, points on their driving record, and possible license suspension. If the speeding driver causes an accident or injures a pedestrian, they can be held legally liable for any personal or property damage.

When to Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

While the Basic Speed Law is designed to protect pedestrians, accidents do still happen. A person who is hit by a car can suffer serious physical injuries, mental harm, and significant financial losses. Understanding your legal rights and determining compensation in these situations is complex and requires extensive knowledge surrounding traffic and pedestrian laws.

If you’ve been in an accident in California, it’s important to act quickly to preserve your legal rights. Our experienced team of San Francisco-based pedestrian accident attorneys at Bostwick & Peterson can explain the legal options available and help you receive compensation for any loss you’ve endured. Contact our San Francisco offices today for a free consultation by filling out this online form or calling 888-831-8448.