Right of Way: Auto vs. Pedestrians
First and foremost, it’s not a fair fight. When a person and a car collide, the person will never win.
Right of way is a tricky conversation. The walker’s cry, “Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way!” is not accurate. But if you’ve ever stuck your head out of your car window to “talk” to a pedestrian in front of your car, you will find emotions, not laws, quickly dominate the rest of the conversation.
While the laws vary from state to state, most states (including California) do not give pedestrians the right of way at all times. They are required to yield to cars in some circumstances. For example, the California code 21950 (b) (Right-of-Way at Crosswalks) states, “No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.”
Practically speaking, however, it’s a good idea to avoid hitting people with your car. And you are required, by law, to drive with caution. For example, if you are driving down a straight, empty street on a sunny day and you see a man crossing illegally, you don’t have the right to maintain your speed and knock him off his feet.
In a circumstance like that, both parties were breaking the law, and lawsuits will inevitably ensue. Lawyers, insurance companies, and hospitals will all start billing hours and fighting over the details of exactly what happened and who is at fault.
Drivers never have the right to endanger a pedestrian on purpose. Pedestrians don’t have the right to walk into the street whenever they want.
Bottom line: be careful when you are walking and be even more careful when you are driving. If you’ve been involved in an accident between a car and a pedestrian, call your lawyer. You might be surprised that the law is on your side.