While many Californians are familiar with the idea that “pedestrians have the right of way”, what this means and whether it is applied in actual real-world circumstances are open questions.
The Vehicle Code, Section 21950 tells us:
(a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter….
(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian” (emphasis added).
Some localities interpret the collective Vehicle Code to mandate that a driver stop and wait for a pedestrian to completely cross the street. These rules and regulations, however, are only effective when a driver becomes aware of a pedestrian’s presence.
Although the rules governing pedestrian access to highways and streets vary from state to state, nationwide pedestrian deaths are at a 30-year high. According to an NPR article about the Governors Highway Safety Association report, 6,227 pedestrians died in traffic accidents in 2018 across the United States. Experts cited in the article opine that the increased number of pedestrian fatalities is due in large part to drivers and pedestrians being more frequently distracted by their phones, as well as an increase in the number of larger vehicles on the road. For example, the author of the Governors Highway Safety Association report opines that the increased number of SUV-pedestrian also result in a greater degree of injury to the pedestrian.
If you or a loved one were injured as a pedestrian, it is important to contact an experienced, qualified attorney to discuss the potential “avenues” of recovery. It can be important to determine all potential defendants and evaluate any potential claims of comparative fault that might be used to minimize the recovery of a victim.