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When Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way on the Road?

Walking around sunny San Diego can come with serious risks. Distracted, speeding, drunk, and negligent drivers can be around every corner. Between 2010-2016 there were a total of 7,589 reported pedestrian involved collisions in San Diego County. As a roadway user, it’s your duty to obey the rules of the road and to yield the right-of-way when applicable at intersections and crosswalks. Unfortunately, not all drivers are as responsible. The more you know about when you do and do not have the right-of-way as a pedestrian in SD, the safer you can walk – and the better you can protect your rights if a collision does occur. This is especially the case in California, which currently leads the nation in pedestrian fatalities.

What are the Rules for Marked Crosswalks and Intersections?

Legally, pedestrians in California have the right-of-way at controlled intersections and marked crosswalks. In these locations, vehicles must always yield the right-of-way to crossing pedestrians. The only exception is at intersections with traffic lights and crosswalk signals. At these intersections, pedestrians only have the right of way when the crosswalk signal has the “Walk” sign. Otherwise, pedestrians must wait and yield the right-of-way to traffic.

Although pedestrians generally have the right-of-way at intersections, this does not mean they have the right to do whatever they please. Pedestrians cannot “unnecessarily stop or delay traffic” while crossing the road. Doing so could be a traffic infraction that results in a fine for the pedestrian. Never assume you have the right-of-way or that oncoming vehicles will stop. There will always be drivers who break the rules and cross through the intersection anyway.

Always obey the signs if an intersection has a crosswalk signal. In San Diego, until recently, pedestrians had to pay $197 for a basic violation of crossing the road when the crosswalk signal showed a red hand. Gov. Jerry Brown, however, has amended the code, changing it to allow pedestrians to enter crosswalks with hand signals as long as they have enough time to cross. Still, pedestrians should adhere to the signals to make sure they have the right-of-way when crossing.

What about Places Where No Crosswalks Are Visible?

Some streets in San Diego don’t have marked crosswalks or controlled intersections. In these cases, a pedestrian can only cross the street when it is safe to do so. The pedestrian cannot step off the curb or run in front of traffic (intersection or not). The pedestrian should carefully look both ways, listen for oncoming traffic, and cross the road when there is plenty of time before the next oncoming car. Check for vehicles turning onto the road before crossing.

Even if there isn’t a crosswalk, drivers are responsible for at least exercising due care for the safety of pedestrians. A driver cannot strike a pedestrian just because the driver had the right-of-way. By law, a driver must still do what he or she reasonably can to prevent the collision, regardless of who has the right to cross. A motorist’s right-of-way does not relieve a driver from the duty to exercise reasonable care behind the wheel.

What are the Dangers of Jaywalking?

Pedestrians do not have the right-of-way when crossing the street anywhere other than crosswalks or intersections. Crossing in the middle of a street is “jaywalking,” and is against the law in California. Jaywalking is a very dangerous practice that causes thousands of pedestrian injuries each year. The best way to keep yourself safe as a pedestrian is to cross where it’s safe to do so, and where drivers are expecting pedestrian traffic.

As a pedestrian, keep yourself safe by always walking to an intersection or crosswalk to cross the road. In California, you could lose a percentage of a personal injury award if you contributed to your pedestrian accident by jaywalking or otherwise breaking the rules. You could also receive a fine. Stick to the rules to help keep yourself safe and on the right side of the law.

If you are injured by a negligent driver as a pedestrian, contact the San Diego pedestrian accident attorneys at Estey & Bomberger, LLP about your case today! (619) 295-0035