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Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way in CA?

Pedestrian crossing top view. Crosswalk aerial from drone.

We’ve all heard the adage “pedestrians have the right of way.” Few of us look into what that actually means, or even if it is true. Below, we explain when and how pedestrians have the right of way in California, and what happens when they don’t. If you’ve been injured in a pedestrian accident in Southern California, call an experienced Los Angeles car accident lawyer for assistance.

Pedestrians Do Not Always Have the Right of Way

As with many things that “everyone knows,” conventional wisdom here is inaccurate. Even in California, pedestrians do not always have the right of way. According to California’s Vehicle Code, drivers must yield the right of way for pedestrians only:

  • In a marked crosswalk
  • In an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

If a driver approaches a pedestrian in or approaching a marked or unmarked crosswalk, the driver must use due care and reduce their speed or take any other action necessary to let the pedestrian cross safely. Drivers cannot, for example, speed up to try to beat a pedestrian to the crosswalk. Drivers can face penalties including fines and a point on their license for failing to properly yield to pedestrians who have the right of way.

Pedestrians, however, are only afforded the right of way in the areas specifically marked or designed for pedestrian crossing. That means that when a pedestrian darts across the street in the middle of a city block, pedestrians do not have the right of way, despite conventional wisdom to the contrary. Drivers must still exercise care while on the road, even when they have right of way, but pedestrians are not given special treatment outside of a crosswalk.

What Are Pedestrian Duties?

California law does not absolve pedestrians of their own duties while on public roadways, even in situations in which they have the right of way. Pedestrians have an ongoing duty to use due care for their safety. Jaywalking is also an unlawful activity.

Additionally, the Vehicle Code specifically states that pedestrians may not “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.” Pedestrians must also continue walking once they enter a crosswalk–they may not unnecessarily stop or delay traffic. Even when they nominally have right of way, they must still avoid being reckless and creating hazards for themselves and motorists.

If you were injured in a car accident in Los Angeles, you need qualified, talented legal help to protect your rights. Reach out to a California auto accident attorney at Morris Law Firm to find out if you have a claim for damages. Morris Law Firm will give you a personalized evaluation and help you figure out your legal rights and next steps. Call us today at 747-283-1144 for a fast response or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.

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