What Are My Rights and Duties as a Pedestrian?

Pedestrian crashes can lead to severe injuries, and they are much more common than most people realize. During the latest reporting year in California, the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) states that there were 811 pedestrians killed and more than 15,000 pedestrians injured across the state.

If you are out walking around the roadways, you need to know your rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian in California.

Your rights as a pedestrian

When you are a pedestrian, you have the right to be safe from driver carelessness and negligence. Drivers need to understand pedestrian rights in a range of circumstances. Drivers must be vigilant when there are pedestrians around and be sure to give them the right-of-way when required to do so.

  • When making a turn, drivers usually must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Around one-third of all pedestrian crashes occur when a driver makes an error while turning.
  • Pedestrians have the right-of-way in intersections when there is a “Walk” sign lit.
  • Crosswalks are pedestrian right-of-way areas, and drivers are required to stop when a pedestrian needs to cross the street.
  • When exiting or entering a driveway, alley, or parking garage, drivers must yield to pedestrian traffic.
  • Parking lots are often filled with pedestrians, and drivers must take precautions to prevent any incidents.

Drivers must operate carefully when there are pedestrians present, whether the pedestrian has the right-of-way or not. This includes whether the pedestrian is in the roadway, on a sidewalk, or in a parking lot.

Your responsibilities as a pedestrian

Pedestrians should always take steps to keep themselves safe and should never expect that a driver will follow the rules of the roadway. Pedestrians should:

  • Always be aware of their surroundings.
  • Use sidewalks when they are present.
  • If there is no sidewalk, pedestrians should walk along the side of the road and facing traffic.
  • If walking at night, pedestrians should wear brightly colored clothing to make themselves visible to the driver.
  • Always use crosswalks when they are present. If there is a “Walk” light, wait for it to light up before crossing.
  • Cross only at intersections and when you have a light if possible.
  • Look both ways and listen for car engines before crossing a street.

Many pedestrians use headphones while they are walking. Others may browse their phones and text message. This is a dangerous behavior. Headphones can block a pedestrian’s ability to hear approaching vehicles and lead them to walk out in front of a car. If a pedestrian is looking at their phone screen, they may drift into a vehicle’s path or cross the street without looking for dangers.

Pedestrian crash injuries can be severe

Pedestrian crashes tend to be much worse than traditional vehicle crashes. The human body cannot withstand thousands of pounds slamming into them without sustaining an injury. It is not uncommon to see pedestrian crash victims suffering from the following in the aftermath of an incident:

These injuries require extensive medical care and can lead to major medical expenses for victims and their families. If a pedestrian crash victim cannot work while they recover, or is unable to return to work at all, they could lose the income they need to pay their bills and support their family. Contact our Orange County pedestrian accident attorney for a free consultation.