Pedestrian right of way laws in California

traffic light in green
traffic light in green

For most, pedestrian laws simply mean you walk through a crosswalk when you have the signal. While that’s true, there’s a lot more to California’s pedestrian laws than crosswalks. Each citizen has legal rights as well as obligations. Here’s what you need to know about the laws in California. 

Chapter 5

Division 11, Chapter 5 of the California Vehicle Code grant the right of way to pedestrians in a wide variety of circumstances. This chapter consists of several sections, each of which details your rights as a pedestrian. 

Any citizen of California needs to know Sections 21950(a), 21950(b), 21951, 21952, and 21954. Both of these are your guide to legal rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian, as well when to yield as a driver. In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one is involved in an accident while walking, these sections are what the court will rely on to make a determination in your case. 

Section 21950: A and B

Section 21950(a) highlights the rights of pedestrians in crosswalks. By default, you have the right of way in any marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. Drivers must yield and allow you to pass through to another sidewalk corner. 

Section 21950(b), on the other hand, details your responsibilities within these intersections. You cannot suddenly leave a curb or sidewalk and walk off into the street, for instance, especially heading into oncoming traffic. 

You can’t come close enough to moving traffic that it could become a potential hazard, either. Part B also explains that pedestrians cannot stop or delay traffic unnecessarily within crosswalks. Helping an elderly citizen cross the street is fine, but you can’t stop in the middle of a crosswalk to answer a text. 

Driver Responsibility

Primarily, drivers must remain aware of pedestrians already in crosswalks. If you were approaching as a pedestrian was walking through, then it is your legal responsibility to “exercise all due care” to not hit that person and reduce your speed. Drivers who fail to do so are going to need a qualified legal representative, like this Riverside lawyer for criminal defense

California law also requires drivers to take any other actions necessary to ensure the safety of the pedestrian. That could mean changing lanes, using the emergency brake, or evasive maneuvers that position the vehicle away from the person walking. 

Section B is also useful when disputes arise. While pedestrians do have responsibilities as they cross intersections, this does not excuse a driver’s failure to exercise due care. Ultimately, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety of those on foot. 

Section 21951, 21952, and 21954

Each of these sections add rules to both drivers and pedestrians in the state. Section 21951 states that other drivers cannot overtake or pass a vehicle that has stopped for a pedestrian, while 21952 provides right of way to all pedestrians on the sidewalk. 

In Section 21954 provides the right of way for drivers on all other sections of road. If you’re crossing anywhere else besides a crosswalk, you’re no longer covered by 21950 A or B. However, drivers must still exercise their duty of care to avoid accidents at all costs. 

Following these right of way rules is vital to the safety of every citizen in California. With the help of trusted personal injury attorneys, you can fight for the compensation you deserve when a driver fails to yield. Never allow someone to get away with negligence, especially if you’ve been injured as a result.