Close Menu

Do Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way?

Do Pedestrians Have The Right Of Way?

Pedestrian accidents can have serious consequences for drivers and pedestrians involved. By understanding California’s rules about pedestrians, drivers can help curb the frequency of pedestrian-involved crashes. The experienced legal team at Heiting & Irwin can help you answer the question, “Do pedestrians have the right of way?” Call 951-682-6400 to schedule a consultation.

Who Is Considered a Pedestrian in California?

To determine if a person has the right of way as a pedestrian, one first needs to determine if the person in question is a pedestrian. According to the California Rules of the Road, issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, pedestrians are people who are on foot or traveling on skateboards, rollerblades, or other methods besides bicycles or vehicles. Someone who uses a wheelchair, tricycle, or other similar devices due to a disability is also a pedestrian.

Those using a motorcycle, motorized scooter, or bicycle to travel are typically not considered pedestrians under California law. Instead, they are drivers and must follow the applicable California driving rules for the vehicle they are using and the area in which they are driving. For example, bicyclists traveling on roads with bicycle lanes should stay within the bicycle lanes except when making turns.

When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

Understanding when pedestrians have the right of way can help encourage safe driving and limit accidents. Further, informed pedestrians can also decrease the chance of miscommunication and injuries when they are venturing into their communities. For legal help regarding California’s rules about pedestrians and when they have the right of way, consider contacting the experienced pedestrian attorneys at Heiting & Irwin.

In Parking Lots

Parking lots can be very busy and hectic locations, with many patrons leaving or entering the store on foot while others are entering or leaving the parking lot by vehicle. This can create confusion and pose risks, particularly to those on foot who do not have a metal frame to protect them should a collision occur. Pedestrians in parking lots have the right of way if they are within a designated crosswalk, regardless of whether it is painted.  Drivers should honor this; but use of common sense – not walking in front of a car coming at you – may trump the law for safe passage in a particular set of circumstances.

In Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods can be a place of frequent activity, especially on sunny days when families take the opportunity to go for a walk. Likewise, people may cross the street to go to someone else’s house. In neighborhoods, pedestrians should cross the street at crosswalks, which are typically street corners.  California recently expanded the law on crossing the street to permit some “jay-walking,” but it is a good rule of thumb to cross at corners for one’s own safety, regardless of the law.

Often, “crosswalks” in neighborhoods are not painted. Even so, the rules regarding crosswalks and who has the right of way apply. Under California law, pedestrians within the crosswalk usually have the right of way unless it is unsafe to cross.

At Crosswalks

Crosswalks are the designated spots for pedestrians to travel across streets. In many places, they contain white or yellow lines to indicate that the painted path is where the pedestrians should cross. Pedestrians have the right of way when the road is clear or the crosswalk signals to pedestrians that they can proceed.

Drivers must exercise caution when their vehicle approaches and intersects with a crosswalk. They should give themselves plenty of time to notice if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk and space to safely stop the vehicle to avoid a collision.

Can Pedestrians Cross the Road Outside of a Crosswalk in California?

Most “crosswalks” are typically at street corners. While many of these are painted, this is not always the case.

Some crosswalks are “unmarked” but are still considered to be crosswalks. Even so, pedestrians should always exercise care when crossing inside or outside of a crosswalk. Failing to do so puts themselves at risk and, in many cases, is against California law.

Are There Special Rules for Pedestrians Who Are Blind or Are Using Guide Dogs?

Under California law, pedestrians who are blind and carrying predominantly white canes (with or without a red tip) always have the right of way. The same is true if the person who is blind has a guide dog with them. (People who abuse this rule and carry a predominantly white cane when they are not blind may be subject to criminal penalties and fines).

Contact a California Pedestrian Accident Attorney for Help

In most cases, pedestrians have the right of way unless it is unsafe for them to cross.  It is considered unsafe if the pedestrian is outside a crosswalk or for other reasons.  Pedestrians should take care by using crosswalks to avoid risking severe injury. For legal help on the topic, “Do pedestrians have the right of way?”, or for help with a pedestrian accident, contact the pedestrian lawyers at Heiting & Irwin by calling 951-682-6400 or by visiting us online at

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn