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There’s confusion over when a driver can proceed through a crosswalk after a pedestrian has crossed by.

Do you have to wait until the pedestrian is all of the way across and on the sidewalk? Or can you drive on when the pedestrian is no longer at risk from being hit by your car?

It’s a question that even local police officers couldn’t agree on , some saying all the way across and others saying just when out of the danger zone, although all said they wouldn’t ticket anyone unless the pedestrian was at risk. DMV spokeswoman Jan Mendoza in Sacramento said the DMV couldn’t answer that question but pointed to the CHP for a definitive answer.

CHP Officer Jon Sloat said the answer is that you can proceed once the pedestrian is not at any risk of being hit, even if he suddenly whirled around and headed back in front of your car.

“There’s nothing in the vehicle code” about waiting until the pedestrian has reached the sidewalk, he said. “You just have to yield to them” until it’s safe to proceed.

And Sonoma County Superior Court Commissioner Carla Bonilla, who runs the local Traffic Court, seems to agree.

“There is a case by case issue here. I do not think the person technically has to be up on the second curb for the car to then drive on. However, clearly the intent of the law is for the pedestrian to be out of harm’s way before the car leaves,” she said in a statement.

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30 Comments

  1. jsiedentopf

    I would say it is best to just wait until they were on the second curb. Otherwise traffic coming in the other direction might not see the person walking. However you can bet they would notice your stopped car and look twice as to why you have stopped.

    June 23rd, 2010 6:50 am

  2. Tricia Consani

    There is always the “better to be safe than sorry” attitude that practiced regularly would make it less confusing for the driver and safer for the pedestrian. I know that people are in a hurry but I get this question quite frequently and sometimes it is a matter of talking it out logically and realizing that we all play an important role in making our roadways and sidewalks safe for everyone. You do your part as a driver when you always wait for the pedestrian to fully cross the street. As a pedestrian I am always very fearful that the car that is edging right next to me as I walk in the crosswalk will jump the gun and hit me. This is a reminder to make eye contact with the driver and make sure they see you before you step on the street. Also, avoid crossing when you are on a cell phone or IPod…it is a distraction that can lead to disaster. Tricia Consani, Community Outreach Specialist for the anta Rosa Police Department’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety

    June 23rd, 2010 8:40 am

  3. Karen

    Well, isn’t that interesting. My partner was cited for NOT waiting until a pedestrian had stepped on to the curb in a crosswalk in Cloverdale four years ago. Quite interesting.

    June 23rd, 2010 4:06 pm

  4. Dave

    Karen… I think the answer lies in “where” your partner was cited, and by who.

    July 2nd, 2010 11:06 am

  5. Jim

    “CHP Officer Jon Sloat said the answer is that you can proceed once the pedestrian is not at any risk of being hit, even if he suddenly whirled around and headed back in front of your car”.
    If this is what Sloat believes then I would like to know why he ticketed me for not stopping for a pedestrians in a crosswalk (on the other side of the street )but could not be seen until they stepped out from behind a parked van. My vehicles front bumper was already into the crosswalk and I would have had to slam on my brakes to stop. I was traveling less than the 25 mph posted and would have been rear ended by the vehicle behind me. These pedestrians were in no danger from me an yet he pulled me over and ticketed me. It seems to me the CHP makes up the rules as they go along. I have seen them parked in the no parking zones along Stony Point Road but if a civilian parked there they would be ticketed. And this is not the only violation of the rules of the road I have seen them break. I guess they believe because they enforce the law they are above the law.

    September 7th, 2010 8:01 am

  6. karen

    i do think it should be ok for cars to proceed at a crosswalk, but when people cross and the sign says do not walk cars should be allowed to go anyway, people do cross anyway and its hard to go when the regular sign is green, or red , people always cross their animal when ever they want, and people on bikes, it makes me really mad, but there has to be a law put in place,

    September 9th, 2010 7:47 am

  7. Valerie

    I have yet to see a cop stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. I think cars should remain stopped until the pedestrian is safely across the street because stopped cars alert other cars that there is something to look out for.

    September 26th, 2010 5:16 pm

  8. fungusamongus

    Doesn’t it seem extreme if I’m driving in curb lane northbound on Mendocino Avenue and stop for flashing light solo pedestrian walking in crosswalk westbound to get to the JC. With no other pedestrians in sight, I am still supposed to stay stopped for the pedestrian even as they’ve reached the two southbound lanes (past the center island)and near the west curb? That seems to create a hazard, not provide pedestrian safety.

    December 1st, 2010 2:52 pm

  9. Common Sense

    They have a REAL dangerous crosswalk in Larkfield in the middle of a 4 lane road with side roads and shopping center access’s and NO light at all! The have already had some problems here and it should be removed or add a light to give safe access! I will never use it.

    March 2nd, 2011 8:57 am

  10. ER

    I thought that pedestrians in California have the right of way at intersections, even in “unmarked crosswalks”.

    One of the more dangerous crosswalks is on Montgomery Drive near Memorial Hospital. It’s just west past the signal with Doyle Park Drive. One evening, after sunset, I went thru the signal on a green light, westbound, and I saw a man step into this crosswalk and raise his hand. I stopped. The car behind me rear-ended me as the driver saw the green light but didn’t notice I was stopped until it was too late. Since then, I try to avoid driving on this stretch of road as there are a couple of other crosswalks there as well, with and without signals, and it’s just too scary.

    Sort of funny story, my husband and I use the signaled crosswalk in front of Doyle Park Elementary School on a regular basis as we walk to Doyle Park. One day, several cars approached as the signal turned red so we could cross. They all came to a stop. Then, one car drifted forward towards the crosswalk. It was a Santa Rosa police car!

    March 10th, 2011 9:26 am

  11. BC

    another point to be made regarding intersections, turning lanes and pedestrians….Middletown, hwy 175…single lane marked with solid white line at the interesection of hwy 175 & hwy 29…as you approach the intersection from hwy 175, and you want to turn right onto hwy 29, it is a single lane and drivers cross the solid white line and use the wide portion of the interesection to turn right, having to stop in the pedestrian crosswalk to see around the lead car in the single lane. This is not legal to my understanding…and when I happen to enter this interesection obeying the rules of the road, I , using my turn signal, un-intentionally “cut-off” someone who is not obeying the rules of the road and I end up with a vehicle driven by a raged person who feels I have violated their right to break the law…so of course, I have had to alter my behavior and avoid this interesection using side roads…again…no one cares…the CHP knows of this interesection, Caltrans knows of this interesection and has repainted ALL the lines execept this line…so it is fading fast…unless the law was changed I am not sure who is at fault when the inevitable accident and loss of life will occur….but who cares….

    March 14th, 2011 12:21 pm

  12. BC

    my understanding is that when the pedestrian is out of the cross walk…also, a vehicle is not to block the cross walk when turning through an intersection…the vehicle is not even suppose to be in the intersection until it is clear to turn…thus bringin me to the next point…which is REALLY unsafe…when your vehicle is waiting at the cross walk for a pedestrian to cross and the vehicle(s) behind you go around you on the right and enter, go through the cross walk…THIS is a huge violation, passing on the right, through a crosswalk, in an intersection….Middletown hwy 175 happens every moment every day, several pedestrians hit, near misses over the years and nothing is realy done because people dont really care…

    March 14th, 2011 12:22 pm

  13. Terry

    I guess I could be wrong, but I could’ve sworn I read in the drivers handbook years ago in drivers ed that you had to wait until a pedestrian was all the way across the street.

    March 21st, 2011 8:20 am

  14. Just me

    Terry, I’m so glad you said that! I was taught the law (at that time) said “You must remain stopped until the pedestrian reaches the opposite curb”. I drive that way still, even if it has been dropped from the California driving laws. I can see how it may seem like an excessive and unnecessary practice if you or your family never use crosswalks. Try to use a crosswalk in a busy or obscured area, and you can appreciate how several stopped cars waiting for you to get to the other side helps to ensure your safety.

    March 31st, 2011 6:46 am

  15. Cyber Muggle

    Some cross walks are manageable to yeald to pedestrians and drive through when theres no harm in it. Also use common sinse because there are just as many crosswalks that you should wait for the pedestrian to complete a crossing.

    June 13th, 2011 12:32 am

  16. Local Girl

    Does waiting 1 extra minute for someone to cross the street really inconvenience you that much? The idea here is helping to keep the pedestrian safe, and I agree with the people who say to wait until the pedestrian reaches the curb. Slow you life down for one moment and think about the other people around you. I don’t think rushing through a crosswalk is going to get you to your destination that much faster. However, witnessing or hitting a pedestrian yourself may.

    June 18th, 2011 12:51 pm

  17. hydra2

    As a visitor from Indiana, where pedestrians have some responsibility for their actions, I’ve noticed really careless behavior on their part. People dither, step out onto crosswalks and then back, are talking on cellphones and completely oblivious to traffic, step out from behind trees or large trucks, etc.
    As a retired person with plenty of time, I just wait, and wait…Pedestrians in California seem to enjoy their right to stop traffic and love to annoy drivers. In Sonoma, with a lot of pedestrians and many of them tourists, you can wait a long time to cross an intersection.

    July 29th, 2011 8:10 am

  18. Allysn Stoner

    This is rediculous!! This is why so many people here walking get hit/killed by drivers!! I RARELY see people yielding or waiting for the so called “safe zone”. What a joke. Wait until the people are all the way through. If a person, driving, is in such a hurry then leave 5 minutes earlier!! I am very angry at how selfish drivers are around here. Yet, research shows that SR has the state’s 5th safest drivers.. I’d hate to see what “worse” cities look like!

    September 1st, 2011 5:55 pm

  19. jody Reppert

    I cannot believe how many pedestrians are injured/killed in Santa Rosa. I really believe that the pedestrian right of way should be abolished. They should wait to cross when it is safe. The law was good years ago, when most vehicles were low-profile and you could actually see a pedestrian. Now days there are so many SUVs on the road that it is really impossible to see a pedestrian when a SUV is, say stopped in the left turn lane and you are approaching the intersection. I also must add a comment on an incident that occurred a few days ago on West College and Link Lane. I was west bound on West College, a pedestrian was crossing. Two vehicles ahead of me did not stop even though the pedestrian was half-way across the street. I stopped, but the pedestrian at that time was so frustrated that he retreated to the sidewalk, giving all the finger.

    September 18th, 2011 2:24 pm

  20. Kitty Rutherford

    Is there anything in the DMV handbook about citing people in a crosswalk who are crossing AGAINST the light. I see this all the time in downtown Santa Rosa. I guess the mind set is, “I have the right of way, even if it is against the light. If you hit me, I’ll be in the right”. I’d like to see law enforcement of people walking against the light and jay walking. We in cars have to maneuver through people a lot of the time.

    February 9th, 2012 2:48 pm

  21. Supah

    if there is an island or median in the street, then you only have to wait til they are at the island or median…not till they cross all of the way.

    February 24th, 2012 12:46 am

  22. Dizzle

    Pedestrians always have the right of way…unless they IN the way.

    May 3rd, 2012 12:44 pm

  23. Comanchepride1937

    I’ more concerned about the Bicyclists that Jump the Curb, then go through the Cross Walk, then back on the Street, then the Curb ect. It’s like one of those”Family Circus Cartoons” showing the kids coming home from school.
    There is no respect on the Road, Bicyclists seem to think that because they can jump[ from one trail to the other that they don’t have to be held liable for their riding practices until they either cause an accident or become one and then the bicyclist definitively loses. Lets have more Cyclists getting the same over priced tickets that drivers have to pay for the same stunts.

    May 4th, 2012 5:07 am

  24. Joe X

    I believe the people who voted for this crazy law should held liable for any injury or death resulting from these accidents.. Mom always told me no to fight a 3000 LB bear because your going to loose. Cars weight in about 3000 LBS and there are many drivers to worried about getting to the next light faster than you. These pedestrians walk into cross walks any time they D__ well please without looking.
    And yes they are right but they might be “Dead Right” Sorry for those fools. And now that we have bike trails through the city streets we need to make licensing mandatory for so traffic sitations can be issued be cause the bike driver don’t heed the laws.

    August 31st, 2012 6:32 pm

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    May 22nd, 2013 2:43 am

  26. Nan

    You better not go to Cocoa Beach Florida and think that a car will stop for you. I have seen people pushing baby carriages, an old lady with a walker and others who were in the middle of the road and cars coming wouldn’t stop for them. They either had to wait in the middle or jump out of the way. This is an accident waiting to happen. And yes we went to police and still nothing is happening.

    August 3rd, 2013 12:29 pm

  27. G

    “CHP Officer Jon Sloat said the answer is that you can proceed once the pedestrian is not at any risk of being hit, even if he suddenly whirled around and headed back in front of your car.

    “There’s nothing in the vehicle code” about waiting until the pedestrian has reached the sidewalk, he said. “You just have to yield to them” until it’s safe to proceed.”

    Tell this to the Petaluma Police Department who were running a sting operation in DT Petaluma and pulled me over when a pedestrian/undercover cop just stepped into the crosswalk on the far side, yelled at me as a signal to the motorcycle cop that I was doing something wrong. After the cycle cop pulled me over, I explained to him just that, and he knew I was right and let me go.

    But then pedestrians need to be held accountable for walking blindly across crosswalks without looking, hitting and kicking vehicles like their entitled all the time. Just once I’d like to see these arrogant pedestrians get ticketed.

    October 4th, 2013 5:53 pm

  28. George

    To all the folks here who are stating it isn’t a major inconvenience to stop and wait for the pedestrians to finish crossing, I see where you are coming from and to be honest with you it would be nice in a perfect world. However, we are not in a perfect world, I’m not sure if your areas are but sometimes you will find yourself in a whole lot of traffic because a couple of arrogant bastards decide they will stop in the middle of the intersection and have a talk, or take their sweat time and slowly cross on the red while starring at you… This has happened to me countless times, everyday! I have yet to see a cop give any pedestrians a citation for breaking the rules. Somehow the rules are made for drivers to protect those who often don’t care to protect themselves. They are like the police then in many ways I suppose, you give them way and they walk all over you.

    October 24th, 2013 10:35 pm

  29. Kara

    I got pulled over today for 21950 Ped in crosswalk. I was in the left lane of two lanes making right turns. A lady with a baby stroller was crossing, and I slowed down and stopped my car to let her pass. When she completely passed, and was well on her way to the other side of the street, I proceeded to go on my way. There was absolutely no threat that she would be hit by me, or have fear that I would hit her, as she was too far away. I was then pulled over. The officer said, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” and I said, “No”, and I honestly didn’t. After he explained 21950, I said that I did “yield” to her and it wasn’t until she was clear on the other side of the crosswalk that I proceeded to go. He then got upset and said, “I was only going to give you a warning, but it doesn’t seem like you get it, and maybe I need to give you a ticket!” I told him that I understood what he said, and that I wouldn’ t do it again. He then gave me a “Courtesy Citation” instead of a real ticket, so I did not have to pay anything and it does not go on my driving record. He also went on and on about how if I was hit by a car from behind that I could have hit her with my car (which made no sense but I didn’t argue). So, here is my question: Do driver’s have to wait for pedestrians to completely clear the crosswalk before proceeding? Some say they “own” the crosswalk, and others say “when it is safe” to go. Which is it? I am not some driver in a hurry. I am willing to wait forever for a person if that is in fact the law. I do know consequences for hitting someone with a car, as my daughter was hit crossing the street and will be disabled the rest of her life. I have watched her suffer with her disability for 15 years now. There is no cure for her brain injury. The question is real, because right now in my town EVERYONE does not wait for pedestrians to completely clear the crosswalk, and they will honk at you if you don’t go. So, which is it? If it is true that they “own” the crosswalk, then how come it is not more heavily enforced? Why are police officers and judging differing with one another on the Internet. It is one or the other, and I don’t want to be a lawbreaker–especially in this regard. It is hitting too close to home.

    February 10th, 2014 7:41 pm

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