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Right of Way, Pedestrian Crosswalk Laws in California

Pedestrians crossing crosswalk at sunset

Car accidents in California are very common, and could lead to very severe and catastrophic injuries. Nobody wants to be a victim of an injury caused by another party’s negligence. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident in California, contact our top-rated California personal injury attorneys today for a free no risk consultation.

Our experienced personal injury attorneys have decades of experience representing clients who have been injured in car accidents, train accidents, bus accidents, pedestrian accidents, etc.

California and Nevada have a set of pedestrian rules that all pedestrians must adhere to while walking on streets and roads. This article below discusses the right-of-way pedestrian laws.

California Vehicle Code 21950 discusses basic pedestrian rules of the road, along with what counts as a sidewalk. Pedestrian accidents make up the majority of accidents in California, and could result in severe catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injury, broken bones, spinal cord injury, head injuries, back injuries, paralysis, etc.

Fault in Pedestrian Accidents

Comparative Negligence is a California rule that allows plaintiffs to reduce the amount of damages they are liable for based on how responsible the defendant is in causing the damages and injuries. What this means is that each party involved in the accident can be held liable for covering the percentage of damages for which they are found to have been responsible for causing. In pedestrian accidents, both parties tend to bear some level of fault as in most of these personal injury cases as both drivers & pedestrians are at least partially responsible for working together to create a safer roadway environment for everyone.

Ultimately, motorists and pedestrians both have responsibilities on the road. Pedestrians are responsible for using the crosswalk to cross the road, avoiding jaywalking, and must follow the traffic laws of the road. Motorists are responsible for driving in a safe manner around pedestrians & bicyclists and for taking reasonable steps to avoid a pedestrian accident.

The at-fault party in a pedestrian accident can be held liable for providing compensation for damages they’re found liable for such as medical costs, physical & emotional damages, loss of companionship, punitive damages, and loss of income & earning capacity.

Pedestrian Duties

Pedestrians always have a duty to make sure that they stop at crosswalks and make sure that the other cars are stopped before they start crossing the crosswalk.

Pedestrian Accident FAQ’s

Who is Considered a Pedestrian?

Under California Vehicle Code, a pedestrian is someone who is walking on a street, riding a mobility device, or riding something other than a bicycle. It is important to note that bicyclists are not considered pedestrians. Bicyclists have their own set of rules that they must adhere to under the California vehicle code. A pedestrian could also be someone who has crutches, rides a wheelchair, skis, roller blades, scooters, and / or skateboards.

Who is not considered a pedestrian in California?

A pedestrian is not someone who rides bicycles, electric bicycles, electric scooters, or hoverboards.

What color are crosswalks in California?

Crosswalks in California are either white or have yellow lines across the road. These colors signify that a pedestrian may cross.

What are the different types of crosswalks?

  • Controlled: controlled sidewalks have a stop sign that requires vehicles to stop before the pedestrian crosses the crosswalk.
  • Uncontrolled: uncontrolled crosswalks do not have any stop signs or lights
  • Marked: this occurs when there are markings on the road that have drawn lines as to where the pedestrian can walk
  • Unmarked: an unmarked sidewalk does not include any lines or indications of a crossing path

What is considered a pedestrian crosswalk?

Under the California Vehicle Code, a crosswalk is a portion of a painted road where pedestrians could walk over. If there is no painted road, usually a crosswalk occurs when there are two roads that meet. This means that a pedestrian could cross an intersection between two streets even if the road is not painted. This is one of the leading causes of pedestrian accidents. Usually, drivers assume that because the road is not painted, the road is not a crosswalk. However, this is not true. Intersections are considered crosswalks for pedestrians, and all drivers should be mindful when approaching an intersection.

Could a pedestrian walk in a bike lane?

California Vehicle Code outlaws pedestrians from walking within bike lanes. Bike lanes are designated areas drawn on the road that are specifically for bicyclists. Cars and pedestrians are prohibited from blocking bike lanes. This is one of the main causes of bicycle accidents in California. Bicyclists are unable to drive around the obstruction in the bike lane, and end up getting severely injured in a bicycle accident.

Do I have to yield to pedestrians?

California Vehicle Code 21950 requires that all motor vehicles yield to pedestrians who are crossing the sidewalk. Usually, motor vehicle drivers engage in negligence when they speed, or engage in distracted driving and fail to see the pedestrian crossing the street. California Vehicle Code 21950 requires that all motor vehicle drivers slow down at the crosswalks.

How do you prove a driver was negligent in a pedestrian lawsuit?

Usually, pedestrian accident lawsuits require the plaintiff, also known as the injured victim, to prove that the driver was negligent. The plaintiff has to show:

  • The driver had a duty to the pedestrian to drive in a reasonably safe manner
  • The driver breached that duty when they failed to drive in a reasonably safe manner
  • Their breach caused the pedestrian to suffer injuries
  • The pedestrian now has damages due to their injuries. Damages could include medical bills and lost wages.

How should pedestrians use crossing lights?

  • A red light means that the pedestrian cannot walk across the crosswalk
  • A green light means the pedestrian could walk across the crosswalk
  • A blinking red or orange light may mean that the pedestrian has a certain amount of time to cross the crosswalk

Usually, crosswalks in California count down the number of seconds a pedestrian has to cross the street. The pedestrian has the right to cross the street once the light is green or the light starts blinking. When the light stops blinking, the pedestrian does not have the right to start crossing the crosswalk.

Does a pedestrian always have to cross at a crosswalk?

A pedestrian does not necessarily need to walk exactly on the marked crosswalk. A pedestrian has a duty to make sure that they are not a hazard to oncoming cars, however they could walk outside of the marked area.

Do you have to wait for a pedestrian to completely cross the street in California?

California Vehicle Code requires that a pedestrian safely remove themselves out of the driver’s path when the crosswalk light blinks red. This means that a driver is not required to wait for a pedestrian to exit the sidewalk, but the driver still must exercise precaution when driving around the pedestrian because they could still be held liable for any injuries.

Could a Pedestrian Also Be Negligent?

A pedestrian also has several duties they must adhere to when crossing the street.  California has comparative negligence laws, which means that a pedestrian could receive a lesser amount in compensation if they contributed to their injuries. Different ways in which a pedestrian could be held liable include:

  • When a pedestrian runs across the crosswalk
  • When a pedestrian runs into oncoming vehicles
  • When a pedestrian stops in the middle of the crosswalk
  • When a pedestrian purposely delays cars stopped at the sidewalk

What type of compensation could I receive for my pedestrian accident lawsuit in California?

A pedestrian who has been injured in California could recover a variety of damages for their pedestrian lawsuit. Examples include:

  • Medical bills
  • Hospitalization bills
  • Past lost wages
  • Future lost wages
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful-death: loss of consortium, loss of society, funeral and burial expenses

Pedestrian Accident Statistics in California

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the number of pedestrians losing their lives on the road has increased over the last few years.

  • California has the highest volume of pedestrian accident deaths of any state in the country.
  • In 2018, nearly 900 pedestrians were killed on roadways in California. This amount has risen over 25% since 2014.
  • Close to 14,000 pedestrians were injured in California accidents in 2018.
  • Over 7,000 pedestrians lost their lives in California road accidents between 2009-2018.
  • The fatality rate for pedestrians in California is close to 25% higher than the annual average across the country.
  • In California, fatal pedestrian accidents comprise over 20% of the total traffic incidents in the state.

Pedestrians at the Highest Risk for Accidents

Child looking both ways before crossing the road

Certain groups of pedestrians are at higher risk of colliding with a motor vehicle. These are the groups that bare the highest risk of being hit by a vehicle:

  • Child Pedestrians. Children are smaller and easier to miss compared to adults, tend to run into the street without warning more often, and lack the same understanding of traffic safety laws that adults have. Close to 1 in 5 pedestrian fatalities that occurred in California in 2017 involved a child who was 14 years of age or younger. Parks, school zones, and rural neighborhoods are locations where a majority of these types of pedestrian accidents occur as these are places where children are commonly found.
  • Elderly Pedestrians. Those who were 65 and older were involved in more pedestrian accidents in 2017 than children under the age of 15 were. This group accounted for over 20% of all the pedestrian fatalities in California. Adults between the age of 50-59 comprised even more of the fatalities in 2017 accounting for around 21% of the pedestrian fatalities.
  • Impaired Pedestrians. Alcohol is a major factor in pedestrian accidents in California. In 2017, nearly 1 in 3 pedestrians who died from vehicle collisions had a blood alcohol level that classified them as being legally drunk at the time. With the impairment of reaction time, judgment, coordination, and motor skills, alcohol-impaired pedestrians are at some of the highest risks for being involved in an accident.

Contact a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Today

Our top-rated California and Nevada pedestrian accident attorneys are available 24/7 via phone and email, and have offices located in major cities such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Irvine, Fresno, San Francisco, Etc.

We are available to take on your pedestrian accident claims. No person should have to suffer through the financial hurdles and physical pain alone. We are here and on your side every step of the way throughout your pedestrian accident claim. Contact us today.

***Disclaimer: The content of this webpage, created by Heidari Law Group, is intended solely for educational purposes. While it endeavors to provide a general understanding of the law, it should not be construed as specific legal advice. Accessing and reading this site does not establish an attorney-client relationship with any member of Heidari Law. Furthermore, please be aware that the legal landscape is constantly evolving, potentially rendering some information outdated or inapplicable.

Sam Heidari

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