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Do pedestrians have the right-of-way in California?

People might assume that pedestrians always have the right-of-way when crossing this street. Although this might be true in certain situations, miscalculations can prove to be very costly. Keeping this in mind, California readers might be wondering exactly when pedestrians have the right-of-way.

California statute clearly lays out when pedestrians have the ability to cross the road and oncoming vehicles should yield. Unfortunately, though, there isn't a clear, universal answer in determining when pedestrians have the right-of-way on roadways.

Of course, to better understand pedestrians' rights in the state of California, it may most effective to examine a few common road-crossing scenarios:

  • Using a crosswalk: Whether a crosswalk is marked or unmarked, drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. At the same time, however, pedestrians must also exercise caution and care when crossing the road.
  • Crossing outside of a crosswalk: Although a person might be tempted to cross the road at a point without a crosswalk, motorists have the right-of-way in this situation.
  • Vehicle driving over the sidewalk: In certain scenarios, motorists might drive their vehicle over the sidewalk to enter or exit the roadway. When this happens, drivers must always yield to pedestrians.

Although these are just a handful of cases in which cars and pedestrians might cross paths, it's useful to know that drivers aren't universally required to yield for pedestrians.

One thing to keep in mind is that just because motorists might have the right-of-way in a certain situation, it doesn't mean that they don’t have a duty of care for those crossing the road. As such, everyone on the road has a part to play in keeping the roadway safe and limiting the risk of pedestrian accidents.

Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles, "California Vehicle Code - Pedestrians' Rights and Duties," accessed March 24, 2014

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