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Jaywalking is a common term for a pedestrian crossing the street at a place that is not an intersection or crosswalk. Although California law does not specifically use the term jaywalking, it prohibits crossing the road at any place except in designated locations. If a vehicle strikes a jaywalking pedestrian, the pedestrian could be wholly or partially at fault for the collision. Learning the state’s jaywalking law can help both pedestrians and drivers.
California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 21955 contains the state’s jaywalking law. It states that pedestrians may only cross the roadway at crosswalks, intersections with traffic control devices and intersections with police officers directing traffic. Crossing in the middle of the road between adjacent intersections breaches a pedestrian’s duties and breaks the law.
It is also against the law for a pedestrian to step off a curb when it is not safe to do so, even at a crosswalk or intersection. If an approaching vehicle does not have a reasonable amount of time to come to a stop, the pedestrian must remain on the curb until it is safe to cross. Stepping out in front of an oncoming vehicle could make the pedestrian responsible for a resultant accident. Finally, pedestrians cannot cross the road where signs prohibit doing so.
Pedestrians should use sidewalks and designated overpassed, tunnels and bridges whenever available in California. The only time it is legal for a pedestrian to walk in the road is if a sidewalk or passageway is not available and if the pedestrian walks on the leftmost edge of the road. The only time a person can walk on the right-hand edge of the road is if no other way to cross safely exists.
When a pedestrian does use a crosswalk, he or she has the right-of-way, as long as the pedestrian uses the crosswalk correctly. CVC section 21950 gives a pedestrian the right-of-way over vehicles at marked crosswalks and unmarked crosswalks at intersections. Yet this law does not give pedestrians the right to dismiss their duties of care. They must still cross safely rather than walking into the path of an oncoming vehicle. It is illegal for a pedestrian to unnecessarily stop traffic while using a crosswalk.
A pedestrian’s duty to use due care for his or her safety does not relieve a driver of his or her duties. A driver must still exercise due care for the reasonable safety of pedestrians while stopping at crosswalks and intersections. Drivers must pay attention to the road, obey speed limits and come to complete stops at intersections and crosswalks. They must yield the right-of-way when pedestrians have the legal right to cross. If a pedestrian does step out in front of a vehicle, the driver has a duty to reasonably try to avoid the crash.
If a pedestrian is guilty of jaywalking in a traffic collision, he or she could bear at least partial responsibility for the accident. California is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning an injured pedestrian could file a lawsuit for some damages even if he or she contributed to the accident. The courts will assign a percentage of fault to each party involved in the accident. Then, the courts will reduce the plaintiff’s damage award in proportion to his or her amount of fault.
Jaywalking is a suitable defense for a driver involved in a pedestrian accident. If the driver can prove that the pedestrian stepped off the curb negligently or tried to cross the road at a place that was not an intersection or crosswalk and that this action caused the collision, the driver might not be liable for damages. Jaywalking is against the law in California. Breaking this law as a pedestrian could eliminate any right to financial compensation from the driver.