California vehicle codes grant pedestrians a great deal of protection, to the point that a popular belief has developed that pedestrians always have the right of way in traffic in the state regardless of the circumstances. This isn't always the case, however. While pedestrians usually have the right of way, they are also expected by the law to exercise the same caution and courtesy that drivers do.
Let's look at some potentially questionable situations. One such situation would be when there is a crosswalk in the middle of the street with no light or sign controlling traffic present. Vehicles are required to yield to pedestrians in these crosswalks according to Vehicle Code 21950. However, the code immediately goes on to state that the pedestrian has a responsibility to exercise due care for their safety, and gives the specific example of a pedestrian jumping off the curb immediately in front of a car as a case where the pedestrian could be found to be responsible for their own injury.
Another example is when a pedestrian chooses to walk across a street that does not have a crosswalk. The code that covers these instances is Vehicle Code 21954. Contrary to popular belief, pedestrians do not have the right of way outside of an established crosswalk. They are required to yield to all oncoming traffic that is near enough to present a potential hazard. However, drivers still have a responsibility to exercise due care for a pedestrian in any roadway; their being outside of a crosswalk is not a free license to get away with hitting them!
Though some pedestrians may believe that California law grants them a right to jaywalk, that just isn't the case and it is very possible to get ticketed for it. For both drivers and pedestrians, common sense and caution should always rule the day at any street crossing.
If you have been involved in a traffic accident and feel you may need the services of an attorney, contact us to learn what your options are and what we can do for you.