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California’s Pedestrian Laws

Walking is a healthy and eco-friendly choice for reaching destinations in your California community, for walking a dog, or for time with family in the fresh air. While most walks are uneventful and relaxing, it only takes one pedestrian accident to alter the course of a life or family. In California, the word “pedestrian’ also refers to skaters and those in motorized wheelchairs.

Knowing California’s pedestrian laws helps support a safer pedestrian journey and also prevents drivers from making a serious error that harms someone else and leaves them liable for damages.

What Is the “Freedom to Walk” Act in California?

While commonly considered legalized jaywalking, this relatively new law, Assembly Bill 2147, protects those who cross the street safely from traffic citations even if they don’t use a crosswalk; however, crossing recklessly or in an unsafe manner may still result in a traffic infraction citation. If a pedestrian makes an unsafe crossing and suffers injuries, they may be held partly responsible.

Crosswalk Laws in California

In California, a crosswalk may be marked or unmarked. Unmarked crosswalks are anywhere sidewalks end at an intersection and then continue on the other side of a street. California’s crosswalk laws include the following:

  • Drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks
  • Drivers must not block crosswalks
  • Drives should slow down and stop at the stop line before reaching the crosswalk when pedestrians are present
  • Pedestrians may not use bike lanes for walking when sidewalks are present
  • Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks but have a responsibility to not walk out suddenly while a vehicle approaches, or linger in a crosswalk stalling traffic
  • Pedestrians must use crossing lights in places where they are installed
  • Pedestrians must not cross an intersection during a “don’t walk” signal
  • Blind pedestrians using white canes or white-tipped canes always have the right of way in intersections. Drivers have a duty to take extra precautions when driving near a blind person

Pedestrians have as much responsibility to follow traffic laws as drivers in California.

California’s Comparative Negligence Laws for Pedestrians

Because California holds pedestrians liable for damages if they disregard traffic laws and cause an accident, the state’s pure comparison negligence insurance laws apply to pedestrians as well as drivers. Under California Civil Code 1714, anyone who contributes to an accident may still recover damages but their compensation will be minus their percentage of fault. The law states:

“Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.”

For example, if a driver hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk, the investigation may determine that the driver is only 80% at fault because it was after dark, the pedestrian wore dark clothing, and they failed to check for an approaching vehicle before they entered the crosswalk. In this case, the driver could recover 20% of their damages if they had property damage to their vehicle or an injury. The pedestrian could recover 80% of their damages. If the pedestrian’s medical bills and lost wages equal $100,000, they would recover $80,000. Our Van Nuys personal injury attorneys can help you understand California’s comparative negligence laws and determine who is at fault for the accident.

Know Your Rights and Obligations as a Pedestrian In California

California’s mild climate and few rainy days make walking a pleasure and a viable option nearly any time of year. By knowing and following the state’s pedestrian laws, it protects drivers and pedestrians from harm and financial responsibility. However, in the event that you are injured in a pedestrian accident, reach out to our Van Nuys pedestrian accident attorneys to learn about your legal options.