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True or False – Does the Pedestrian Always Have the Right of Way?

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Chuck Geerhart
pedestrian right of way

With more and more people looking at their phones while crossing the street, it is not surprising pedestrians are getting hurt all the time.

If you have been involved in a pedestrian accident in California, you may be wondering, what your rights and responsibilities are as a pedestrian.

Below, the experienced California pedestrian attorneys at The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart will go over the details around when pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with a member of our team, contact us online or call (415) 577-4992 today.

Pedestrian Rights Under California Law

Under the law, drivers must yield to pedestrians in most, but not all, circumstances. Below, are a number of codes under California law that pertain to pedestrians.

California Vehicle Code § 21950 (a & c)

According to California Vehicle Code § 21950 ( a & c), “the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian”

This section refers to intersections without illuminated traffic signals.

Note the term “unmarked crosswalk.” We all know what a marked crosswalk looks like. An unmarked crosswalk runs between all streets (but not slender alleys) which meet at approximately 90-degree angles. Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing at an unmarked crosswalk.

California Vehicle Code § 21950 (b)

Pedestrians do not have the right to simply charge out into an intersection. “No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.”

California Vehicle Code § 21951

Drivers approaching a crosswalk must stop if another vehicle ahead of them has stopped, even if they can’t see why the other vehicle has stopped.  

Vehicle Code § 21951 provides: “Whenever any vehicle has stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.”  

By its plain language, this code section is not limited to intersections without traffic signals. I am handling a wrongful death case right now where a woman was crossing against a red light but was in the crosswalk. One car stopped for her, but a car approaching from the rear did not. That car did not see her and killed her. The case is in litigation.

California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 710

Because a car is so powerful, pedestrians have a lesser duty of care. California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) 710 (Duties of Care for Pedestrians and Drivers) provides:

“The duty to use reasonable care does not require the same amount of caution from drivers and pedestrians. While both drivers and pedestrians must be aware that motor vehicles can cause serious injuries, drivers must use more care than pedestrians.”

Contact a California Pedestrian Accident Attorney Today

If you need a California pedestrian accident lawyer to help you, look no further than The Law Office of Chuck Geerhart.

We have years of experience helping injured victims like you. We aren’t afraid to stand up for your rights. We offer free, no-obligation consultations, so there is no risk to meet with us.

We can help you decide what the best course of action is for your particular case. Reach out to our team online today or call (415) 577-4992 to learn more about how we can help you fight for the compensation you are owed.

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