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When Do California Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way?

November 24, 2020

When you’re on foot, you are obviously extremely vulnerable, even in minor pedestrian accidents. This is exactly why the law favors pedestrians when it comes to yielding the right-of-way, but this does not mean you aren’t responsible for staying as safe as possible out there when you’re hoofing it. If a negligent motorist leaves you or someone you love injured in a pedestrian accident, it’s time to consult with an experienced San Francisco pedestrian accident. 

California Pedestrian Laws

The State of California requires drivers to cede the right-of-way to pedestrians who are within marked crosswalks or who are within unmarked crosswalks in intersections, with few exceptions. As such, California’s default rule is that pedestrians in crosswalks have the right-of-way, but this is tempered by the pedestrian’s responsibility to protect himself or herself from undue harm. This means that a pedestrian that darts from a curb or other safe place to walk or run into the path of an oncoming vehicle that is too close to avoid the immediate danger he or she presents abdicates the right-of-way. Further, pedestrians are forbidden from stopping or delaying traffic in crosswalks – whether marked or unmarked – unnecessarily. 

Drivers Must Exercise Caution around Pedestrians

Ultimately, drivers must exercise immense caution when pedestrians are in their midst. The risk differential between the cars motorists drive and the pedestrians they encounter is simply too great for motorists to relax their guard around pedestrians. 

The Right-of-Way in Marked and Unmarked Crosswalks

When a driver approaches a pedestrian in a crosswalk that is either marked or unmarked (regardless of whether the pedestrian is entitled to be there or not), he or she is required to do all of the following:

  • Exercise all due care
  • Reduce one’s speed
  • Take any other actions necessary to help safeguard the pedestrian’s safety

The pedestrian’s responsibility in these moments does not relieve the driver of this primary duty of care. 

Two specific instances in which drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians include:

  • If a forward vehicle has stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, all drivers approaching from the rear must stop without passing the forward vehicle.
  • Prior to driving over a sidewalk (such as when entering a parking structure or parking lot), motorists must yield the right-of-way to any approaching pedestrians on the sidewalk. 

Everywhere Other than Crosswalks

Motorists have the right-of-way everywhere other than crosswalks and when cars are passing over sidewalks – or driving in parking areas. But California law also makes it clear that motorists’ have an overriding duty of care whenever pedestrians are about, which makes pedestrian accidents that don’t happen at intersections less cut-and-dried than you might think when it comes to fault. 

Reach Out to an Experienced San Francisco Pedestrian Accident Attorney Today

The formidable personal injury attorneys at Bogaards Law in San Francisco have impressive experience helping clients like you obtain compensation that covers their complete physical, financial, and emotional damages. We’re here to help you, so please don’t wait to contact us for a free consultation today.


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