Pedestrian safety is of the utmost importance, especially in California.
California is a big state, with over 38 million people spread across 156,000 square miles. That’s a lot of ground to cover, and in order to do it you’ve got to get around. You may have noticed a significant increase in pedestrian accidents as of late, and it is not just your imagination. The California Office of Traffic Safety reports that there has been a 17% increase in pedestrian deaths since 2014. There are many reasons for this spike, but we can all agree that something needs to be done about it.
Unfortunately, getting around in California can sometimes be dangerous. From 2015 through 2017, there were 2,566 pedestrian fatalities on the roads in California. While that represents only 11% of all traffic deaths in the state during that time period, it’s still far too many.
It is illegal under California law for drivers and pedestrians to block any part of a sidewalk, including driveways and wheelchair ramps. If you are standing on someone’s driveway or blocking their wheelchair ramp, you might be liable for any injuries sustained by pedestrians due to your actions. If you’ve been hurt because of someone else’s negligence on the road, work with a California Personal Injury Attorney.
In order to prevent tragedies and to make California roads safe for everyone, both drivers and pedestrians need to follow the rules of the road and be vigilant when traveling on or near roadways.
Tips for Pedestrians
While crossing the road, pedestrians must yield right of way to vehicles if they are not at a crosswalk or intersection. Pedestrians need to look both ways before crossing the road and should walk on sidewalks whenever possible. It is important for pedestrians to remember that they cannot cross a road between intersections (except in marked crosswalks). It is also against the law for pedestrians to stop or stay on a roadway for more than 10 minutes, except on a sidewalk area or in a marked area for pedestrian use.
Pedestrian safety depends on drivers being aware of their surroundings and pedestrians being visible and predictable on the roadways. Pedestrians need to be aware of some key safety tips:
- Stay Alert and Obedient
Always be aware of your surroundings and obey all traffic laws while navigating the roads as a pedestrian. This means staying off your phone, sticking to sidewalks and crosswalks, and always looking both ways before crossing the street.
- Use the Sidewalk
If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic on the shoulder of the road instead of walking close to traffic where you are more likely to be hit by a car.
- Avoid walking at night if possible
The most dangerous time for pedestrians is between 8 p.m. and 11:59 p.m., when approximately 30% of all pedestrian deaths occur each year. Sadly, this is also when alcohol use is highest among drivers and pedestrians alike.
- Be Visible
Wear bright, reflective clothing at night or in low-light conditions to ensure that drivers can see you easily. If you’re crossing a street at night where there are no lights or sidewalks, carry a flashlight with you to alert drivers to your presence on the road.
- Use Crosswalks
Pay close attention to crosswalks and other areas where drivers are expecting pedestrians to be present. Never jaywalk or cross mid-block as this can confuse drivers who may not expect someone to walk out into traffic from an unexpected area.
- Obey Traffic Signals
Walking while distracted by devices can be extremely dangerous for pedestrians. Be sure to fully obey traffic signals for walkers at intersections and don’t dart out into traffic suddenly.
- Stay off your cell phone while crossing the street
Even using an earpiece can distract you from cars that may come too close to you.
- Look both ways before crossing the street or entering traffic
Always look both ways, left and right, before crossing the street. Before entering a crosswalk or traffic, always stop and look both ways for oncoming vehicles. Never assume a driver will stop for you.
- Stay sober while walking.
Alcohol impairs your ability to judge distances and speeds, which makes it more difficult to avoid cars on the road.
Tips for Drivers
Drivers are still the most dangerous people on the road. A pedestrian is no match for a car.
As a driver, you can do your part to keep our roads safe and pleasant by following a few simple rules:
- Do not drive distracted or impaired.
Distracted driving is now a leading cause of accidents across the board, including pedestrian accidents. Don’t use cell phones behind the wheel, even with hands-free devices. It’s also important to be aware of your own limitations, especially if you are taking medication that makes you drowsy or affects your reaction time.
- Stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
California law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, whether they are marked or unmarked. This includes crosswalks at the end of blocks without traffic lights or signs (i.e., “uncontrolled” intersections). If you are turning right on red, make sure there are no pedestrians around before proceeding with your turn.
- Watch out for children.
Kids aren’t always predictable, especially when they’re playing outside or trying to get somewhere in a hurry.
- Slow down! Speed kills.
The higher the speed of a vehicle, the less likely it is that a driver will see a pedestrian in time to stop and avoid a crash. A pedestrian hit by a car traveling at 20 mph has an approximately 90 percent chance of survival; however, if the car is going 40 mph, there’s an approximate 10 percent chance of survival rate for the pedestrian.
- Stop for pedestrians at marked crosswalks or intersections where traffic signals are not in place.
Under California law, drivers must stop for pedestrians within any marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection (CVC 21950). Drivers must also stop for pedestrians crossing within any marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection with a traffic signal in place.
- Be extra cautious when backing up
Children are often behind you but out of your sight.
- Be extra cautious when driving through school zones and residential areas where children are likely to be present.
Story From Brett Sachs
Brett Sachs, partner & principal attorney at MVP Accident Attorneys, graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with Cum Laude Honors and worked for an insurance defense firm before starting his practice. Brett has evaluated thousands of personal injury cases and has helped his clients receive the justice they deserve.