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When do pedestrians have the right of way?

Car Accidents

Cars, trucks and SUVs are considerably larger and travel much faster than walkers, joggers and runners. Consequently, motorists must exercise additional caution when driving near pedestrians. If they do not, pedestrians are vulnerable to catastrophic and life-changing injuries.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, more than 6,000 pedestrians died in motor vehicle collisions in 2020 alone. To keep pedestrians safe, California law generally gives them the right of way. This means drivers must yield to pedestrians. There are some technicalities to this rule that all motorists should know, however.


Sidewalks are for pedestrians and not for motorists. Still, when turning into shopping centers or driveways, motorists often must cross the sidewalk. Pedestrians always have the right of way when they are on the sidewalk. Therefore, before crossing a sidewalk, drivers must look for pedestrians. If pedestrians are present, motorists must wait until they are gone before crossing the sidewalk.


Pedestrians frequently must cross streets. Unlike sidewalks, streets are mostly for drivers and not for walkers. When crossing streets, pedestrians have the right of way when they are in a crosswalk, provided they comply with the walk and do not walk signs.

If the walk sign has a countdown, pedestrians may enter the intersection as long as they have enough time to cross the street before the countdown reaches zero. If there is no countdown, pedestrians should not enter the intersection when the do not walk sign is flashing.

While pedestrians and drivers must obey the rules of the road, pedestrians are at a disadvantage. Ultimately, if someone injures a pedestrian by failing to yield, the injured walker may have legal options for pursuing financial compensation.

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