ASK A COP: All You Need to Know About Cars and Pedestrians in the Crosswalk

Most pedestrian have worried for their safety at a crosswalk. For drivers--what's the law?

Can you cross before or after a pedestrian gets to your point in the sidewalk? (Photo: Patch Archive)
Can you cross before or after a pedestrian gets to your point in the sidewalk? (Photo: Patch Archive)

Patch Reader: 

When is it legal to continue through the intersection when a pedestrian is crossing the road? 

There is debate as to whether you can continue once they reach the center median (eg no longer walking on the street you will be traveling) or if you have to wait until they are on the other sidewalk.

Answer from CHP Officer Bradley Sadek:

Here is what California Law Says:  "21950 (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." 

To many, this section is about as clear as mud. California vehicle Code describes "Right-of-Way" as "The privilege of immediate use of the highway (section 525)." So, if a pedestrian steps into a crosswalk, having due regard for his/her own safety, they have established a right-of-way to that crosswalk. As the pedestrian traverses the crosswalk, they do not maintain a right-of-way to the crosswalk behind them. The driver of a vehicle is allowed to cross behind a pedestrian.

A 1950 superior court ruling (People v. Hahn) stated: "A pedestrian is entitled to as much space as will afford him a safe passage, one that can be taken without either physical interference or such a threat of interference that will reasonably cause him to step back or hesitate in his going. The pedestrian's heart, as well as his body, should be free from attack."

In this statement, the court made it clear that a vehicle must not cross a pedestrian's path, either before or behind, in such a manner that endangers or delays the pedestrian. The vehicle code also makes it very clear that a driver is required to exercise "Due Care for the safety of any pedestrian within any crosswalk, marked or unmarked."

Rob Chapman December 30, 2013 at 02:43 AM
I'm sorry, but if you need to ask when you should drive through a crosswalk, you should not be behind the wheel of a 5000 pound machine.
phdog December 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM
A little harsh, Rob. It's confusing to many people when you have a wide street like ECR, which is divided, and it is safe to drive through, but you don't want to get a ticket simply because a pedestrian is 100 feet away in the same crosswalk. If it's a child, I always wait, as they are unpredictable.
Vicki Brown December 30, 2013 at 05:48 PM
I'm less worried about driving through the cross walk 50 feet ahead of the pedestrian and more worried about the pedestrians who step blindly off the curb without looking, thinking that the crosswalk offers some magical protective field. I wish more pedestrians would show "due regard for his/her own safety" when stepping into a crosswalk.


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