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Right of Way: Pedestrians’ Rules & Who’s at Fault in Accidents?

Pedestrians have the right of way over vehicles in most circumstances in the United States. However, pedestrians also have a responsibility to follow traffic laws at intersections and along roadways just like motorists do. At times, drivers must yield to to the right of way of pedestrians and in some situations, pedestrians must yield the right of way to motorists.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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When Do Pedestrians Have the Right of Way?

Vehicle codes state that automobiles must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing any set or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. A pedestrian must not suddenly leave a curb, sidewalk, or other place of safety to put themselves or others at risk. Pedestrians have the right of way at most crossings, including marked and unmarked crosswalks.

Fault in Pedestrian Accidents

Motorists and pedestrians both share responsibilities on U.S. roadways. Motorists are responsible for driving safely around pedestrians and bicyclists, and for taking reasonable steps to avoid a pedestrian accident. Pedestrians are responsible for using the crosswalk, avoiding jaywalking, and are required to follow the traffic laws of the road.

The at-fault party in a pedestrian accident is responsible for providing financial compensation for damages they’re found liable for including medical expenses, physical and emotional damages, loss of consortium, punitive damages, and loss of wages (both present and future).

Related Article: Hit By A Car While Walking?

Do You Have to Wait for a Pedestrian to Completely Cross the Street?

Vehicle codes do not mandate that a driver must wait for a pedestrian to fully exit the crosswalk or street before they move forward in their lane. Instead, a pedestrian must be safely out of the driver's path for them to proceed driving again.

What is the Rule of Pedestrian?

The rule of pedestrian states that pedestrians have the right-of-way in marked or unmarked crosswalks. If there is a limit line before the crosswalk, stop there and allow them to cross. Some crosswalks have flashing lights. Whether or not the lights are flashing, look for pedestrians and be prepared to stop.

What are the New Jaywalking Laws in California?

As of Jan. 2023, jaywalking is illegal in California (21955 VC) only if there is an immediate threat of collision with a motor vehicle or bike. Therefore, if there is no close oncoming traffic, you can jaywalk without the risk of getting a ticket.

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