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Pedestrians in California: Know your rights

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Pedestrian accidents can result in serious and even fatal injuries. Motorists need to watch for pedestrians and obey the rules of the road to prevent an accident. Pedestrians can also take steps to keep themselves safe.

Pedestrians and motorists should understand their responsibilities on the road to keep everyone safe. Right of way laws that both pedestrians and motorists need to know:

  • Pedestrians have the right of way in marked and unmarked crosswalks
  • Motorists must stop for pedestrians crossing in both marked and unmarked crosswalks
  • Motorists cannot pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks

Responsibility after a pedestrian accident

Pedestrians also need to be aware of local and state laws to stay safe and avoid violations that could result in a traffic ticket or other consequences. Pedestrians may be held responsible after an accident in some cases, including:

  • Not using marked crosswalks
  • Jaywalking
  • Not obeying traffic signals, such as stepping off the curb during a "Don't Walk" traffic signal

Local crosswalk and pedestrian traffic laws

The laws and rules are a little different in each community. Here's what you need to know to stay safe as a pedestrian and avoid violating traffic laws according to local laws in Los Angeles:

  • Los Angeles Statute 21456: It is illegal for pedestrians to step into a crosswalk after a red hand is flashing and the countdown for the crosswalk has already started. Police will issue tickets to pedestrians violating this statute in L.A.
  • California Vehicle Code 2145: Pedestrians can walk in a marked or unmarked crosswalk if they have a green light. However, they are required to yield the right-of-way to vehicles that are in the intersection legally.
  • In L.A., it is illegal for pedestrians to cross the street in the middle of the block if there are traffic control devices less than a block away. This means pedestrians are required to walk to the traffic control device and cross only when the traffic control device allows. Failure to do this may result in a jaywalking ticket.

Understanding the local laws and guidelines is important as a pedestrian, especially in L.A., one of America's largest cities, where jaywalking may not only lead to fines, but to a serious accident. In our car-dominant culture, whether or not the pedestrian is at fault, it's far too easy to wind up hurt or even killed.

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