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Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

The right of way means everything when it comes to the relationship between drivers and pedestrians. While it’s true that pedestrians often have the right of way, it surprises most people to learn they don’t always. Here, our San Diego pedestrian accident attorneys discuss the rules pedestrians and drivers must follow. 


Do Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way?

Right of Way at Signalized Crosswalks

Drivers must yield the right of way to pedestrians when the crosswalk light says the pedestrian can cross. Conversely, if the crosswalk light says the pedestrian cannot cross, the driver has the right of way. Pedestrians are required to yield to vehicles that have a green light at an intersection. That being said, even if a pedestrian is crossing the road illegally or jaywalking, drivers must yield to them. Pedestrians who are blind always have the right of way in any situation. 

Right of Way at Unsignalized Crosswalks

Right-of-way laws are a little different at non-signaled crosswalks. The pedestrian always has the right of way, even if they run out in front of a moving vehicle. When coming up to a non-signaled crosswalk, drivers are advised to slow down and remain alert. 

Right of Way When Crossing Outside of a Crosswalk

Drivers have the right of way when pedestrians cross outside of a designated crosswalk. As such, if a pedestrian gets hit by a car while crossing in this manner, they could be held liable for damages. Some states have laws that differ on the matter and hold the driver accountable regardless. 

Right of Way When Walking on a Sidewalk

Pedestrians using the sidewalks have the right of way, and there are no exceptions. If pedestrians come up to an intersection on the sidewalk, they can cross even if a vehicle was there before them. For example, if a car is turning into a store parking lot as a pedestrian walks along the sidewalk, the pedestrian does not have to stop for the vehicle. However, pedestrians have the option to wave drivers on. 


How to Avoid Pedestrian Accidents

Safety Tips For Drivers

  • Slow down in pedestrian areas.
  • Look for eye contact from the pedestrian.
  • Don’t pass when the car ahead of you stops.
  • Observe school crossing signs and school bus rules.
  • Only drive while sober. 
  • Take the weather into account.
  • Be patient with seniors and other people with challenges.

Safety Tips For Pedestrians

  • Don’t expect drivers to see you.
  • Stay far away from the curb when you stop for cars.
  • Look around parked vehicles before crossing.
  • Use crosswalks and stay observant.

When is a Pedestrian At Fault in an Accident?

Pedestrians are required to obey California’s right of way laws, and if they are ignored or a pedestrian acts recklessly, they can be held entirely or partially liable for an accident. Some examples of when a pedestrian may be considered at fault are if an accident occurs while they: 

  • Dart out into the street after failing to check for oncoming traffic.
  • Jaywalk or cross outside of a crosswalk.
  • Cross at a signaled crosswalk when the light says not to walk.
  • Cross without the right of way due to being distracted, such as texting, talking on the phone, etc.
  • They are intoxicated and making reckless decisions.
  • Walk where it’s prohibited.
  • Wear dark clothes without reflective gear at night.

Liability is never straightforward in most pedestrian accident cases and will require a thorough investigation to determine which parties are responsible.