Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu

What are the Pedestrian Laws In CA?

Aerial photo top view of people walk on street in the city over

California law protects pedestrians by granting them certain rights on California streets. In California, pedestrians include anyone who isn’t in a motor vehicle, bicycle, motorcycle, electric scooter, or hoverboard. Pedestrians include walkers, skateboarders, rollerbladers, folks in wheelchairs, skiers, non-electric scooter riders, and ice skaters. Pedestrian rights are not absolute, however. Below, we discuss the rights of pedestrians, and the limitations on those rights, under the California Vehicle Code. If you’ve been hurt in a pedestrian accident in Southern California, call a seasoned Calabasas personal injury attorney at the Halpern Law Firm.

Pedestrians Have the Right of Way… Sometimes.

It’s a common misconception that pedestrians always have the right of way. Even in California, pedestrian rights are limited to certain locations and situations. According to California’s Vehicle Code, motor vehicles must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are crossing the street in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. That’s it.

If pedestrians run into the middle of the road or cross the street outside of a crosswalk location, they are supposed to yield to oncoming cars (and might be guilty of jaywalking). If a pedestrian crosses outside of the designated, marked or unmarked crosswalk and a car accident occurs as a result, the pedestrian could be liable for any damages caused.

Pedestrians Must Exercise Due Care

Even when pedestrians are walking in marked or unmarked crosswalks, California law requires them to exercise appropriate, due care. Pedestrians cannot act haphazardly in a way that is likely to cause an accident or other danger. Pedestrians may not suddenly leave the curb or other place of safety and dart into the path of an oncoming vehicle, for example, if the vehicle is close enough that doing so would create a hazard. Additionally, pedestrians may not stop or delay traffic unnecessarily, even while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Additional provisions restrict pedestrian behavior even further. Pedestrians must not:

  • Walk in bike lanes when there’s a sidewalk or walking path available
  • Go outside the crosswalk at the intersection, such as by heading straight to the opposite corner of the intersection when there’s no corner-to-corner crosswalk
  • Cross at an intersection against a red light or don’t walk signal
  • Cross at an intersection, even in a crosswalk, when there are vehicles close enough to create an immediate hazard

The significance of these restrictions is to emphasize that pedestrians, like motor vehicle drivers, have a responsibility to other people on California streets. If a pedestrian engages in reckless behavior and runs into the middle of the road when a car is just about to cross the intersection, forcing the car to swerve and crash, the pedestrian may be liable for any resulting injuries and other damages.

Drivers, in turn, have a responsibility to exercise due care when approaching pedestrians. Even if a pedestrian is unnecessarily delaying traffic by, for example, walking too slowly across an intersection, drivers must still act to protect the safety of those pedestrians. Neither drivers nor pedestrians are excused from behavior that would put anyone else at unnecessary risk, even if someone is not following the rules.

California law does give extra protections to blind pedestrians. Totally or partially blind pedestrians with a white cane or guide dog do have the right of way, and motorists are expected to take all reasonable precautions to keep these pedestrians safe. Failing to act appropriately with regard to a blind pedestrian is a criminal offense, punishable as a misdemeanor with possible jail time.

If you or someone you love has been injured due to someone else’s negligence in Southern California, call a seasoned and trial-ready personal injury attorney at the Halpern Law Firm. We fight for the compensation you and your family deserve. Contact us at (818) 785-5999 today. These cases are handled on a contingency basis, meaning you won’t be charged any attorney’s fees unless we win.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn