It was a long winter, with drivers mowing down pedestrians throughout the county, so who can blame people for seeking the fine points of crosswalk law?

Today’s question involves broad, multi-lane intersections. It’s followed by a list of the crosswalk violations most frequently seen in traffic court.

How much should we yield for pedestrians in a crosswalk?

The question: I was headed Southbound on B Street in Santa Rosa, waiting at the light to turn right on Third Street.  When the light turned green a pedestrian started into the crosswalk from the opposite side of the intersection, heading Northbound.  There was a line of cars behind me waiting to procede straight through the intersection and the pedestrian was seven lanes of traffic away from the lane I was turning into, a safe distance.  Am I required to wait until the pedestrian has crossed the street or can I turn right as long as I’m not endangering them?

How does this apply to the lighted crosswalks like those on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa or Washington Street in Petaluma?  After the pedestrian has crossed my lanes of the road can I proceed before they’ve finished crossing the street?  Do I have to wait until the lights stop flashing or just until the pedestrians have crossed the street? - George 

The answer: Yes, your reader can proceed before the pedestrian crosses the street as long as the driver of a vehicle does not impede the stride of the pedestrian.  Another way to state it: if the ped is walking a normal pace across the crosswalk and he does not feel the need to brake or slow his stride because of your turn, then you are allowed to proceed.  Now, we all know some peds are braver than others, so there is some subjectivity to this interpretation. The second question is also yes, you may proceed after the ped crosses your pass as long as you do not endanger their safety.  – Sgt. Mike Numainville, Santa Rosa Police Department, Traffic Bureau

Most common crosswalk tickets

Commissioner Lawrence Ornell of the Sonoma County Traffic Court picks out these violations as the ones most likely to end up in his courtroom:

The most common one I see – Driver must yield right-of-way at crosswalk except as otherwise provided (Veh.C. 21950(a)].

The second most common — When vehicle is stopped at crosswalk for pedestrian, vehicle approaching from rear may not overtake and pass [(b) Veh.C. 21951].

This is number 3 – Driver approaching pedestrian in crosswalk must exercise due care and reduce speed or take other action necessary to protect pedestrian’s safety [Veh.C. 21950(c)]

Most common pedestrian ticket I see – Pedestrian may not cross roadway between adjacent intersections controlled by signal devices or police officers, except in crosswalk [(d) Veh.C. 21955 ]

I haven’t seen this one yet — Although it is unlawful for a person to ski or toboggan on or across a roadway in such a manner as to interfere with the movement of vehicles, a person skiing across a highway at a speed no greater than a walk has the rights of a pedestrian. [Veh.C. 21959]

The rest of the Vehicle Code as it pertains to Pedestrian’s Rights.

(c) Veh.C. 21952 [driver crossing or on sidewalk must yield to approaching pedestrian].

(d) Veh.C. 21970(a) [person may not stop vehicle unnecessarily in manner that blocks marked or unmarked crosswalk or sidewalk].

Pedestrian’s Duties and Restrictions. The Vehicle Code specifies various duties of pedestrians.

(a) Veh.C. 21950(b) [pedestrian may not enter path of vehicle so close as to constitute immediate hazard or unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in crosswalk]; Veh.C. 21950(d) [Veh.C. 21950(b) does not relieve driver from duty to exercise due care for safety of pedestrians within marked crosswalk or within unmarked crosswalk at intersection].

(b) Veh.C. 21953 [pedestrian must yield right-of-way to vehicles when crossing roadway by means other than available tunnel or overhead crossing].

(c) Veh.C. 21954(a) [pedestrian must yield right-of-way to vehicles so near as to constitute immediate hazard when on roadway at point other than crosswalk]. (People v. Ramirez (2006) 140 C.A.4th 849, 852, 44 C.R.3d 813 [defendant who crossed intersection diagonally, outside of crosswalk, did not violate Veh.C. 21954(a); defendant did not fail to yield right-of-way or create immediate hazard to others on road].)

(e) Veh.C. 21956(a) [pedestrian may not walk on roadway outside of business or residence district except close to pedestrian's left-hand edge]; Veh.C. 21956(b) [pedestrian may walk close to pedestrian's right-hand edge of roadway if crosswalk or other means of safely crossing roadway is unavailable or if traffic or other conditions would compromise safety of pedestrian attempting to cross road].

(f) Veh.C. 21957 [pedestrian may not stand in roadway to solicit ride (hitchhiking)].

(g) Veh.C. 21960 [Department of Transportation or local authorities may prohibit or restrict pedestrian use of freeways].

(h) Veh.C. 21961 [local authorities may adopt ordinances prohibiting crossing roadways at other than crosswalks].

(i) Veh.C. 21966 [pedestrian may not walk on bicycle path when there is adjacent adequate pedestrian facility].

(k) Veh.C. 21450 et seq. [pedestrians' duty to obey traffic signals].

(l) Veh.C. 22451 [pedestrians have same duties as drivers at railroad grade crossings when train is approaching or crossing gate is closed]. 

Still want more? 

Read an earlier Road Warrior post answering the question, “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?” by clicking HERE.



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  1. Colleen Fernald

    I have been asking the chiefs of police in Sebastopol and Santa Rosa to put this issue in print for years to no avail. Thanks for putting a spotlight on it.

    May 3rd, 2013 11:52 am

  2. jd

    Yes THANK YOU! I was told you could not turn if the pedestrian was in the crosswalk AT ALL (so if they stepped off the curb, even across the street from your car) and you would get a hefty fine if you did. i appreciate this clarification and will be letting other people know!

    May 3rd, 2013 1:24 pm

  3. Sheri

    Appreciate your research on this. It’s a common question.

    May 3rd, 2013 1:32 pm

  4. WineCountryGirl

    When I took my driver’s test 46 years ago, the only part of the test I failed was failing to yield, while making a right hand turn, to a pedestrian who had stepped off the curb on the other side of a 5 lane street. Has that law been changed, or is it just ridiculous enough that it’s not enforced?

    May 3rd, 2013 3:39 pm

  5. joe donegan

    Every morning at the Junior college I see wheelchair bound senior citizens driving their chairs as if it were a car. It is these times I wish I had a digital camera with video capabilities. Pedestrian really do not belong in the traffic lanes any more than vehicles like bikes belong on the sidewalks. So sad when they are killed in such foolish manors.

    May 3rd, 2013 8:33 pm

  6. Fred Mangels

    I appreciate the clarification of crosswalk laws. However, the bottom line is that drivers can violate those laws either intentionally or by accident. The last line of defense for pedestrians is being observant of that and never assuming a car will stop for them.

    May 4th, 2013 6:59 am

  7. Kyle

    “I haven’t seen this one yet — Although it is unlawful for a person to ski or toboggan on or across a roadway in such a manner as to interfere with the movement of vehicles, a person skiing across a highway at a speed no greater than a walk has the rights of a pedestrian. [Veh.C. 21959]”

    Um, well DUH!!!!
    We’re in Sonoma County! When has there ever been enough snow on the ground to ski across any road, let alone a highway???

    May 4th, 2013 1:06 pm

  8. Road.Warrior

    It was a joke, Kyle. Even judges have a sense of humor.

    May 5th, 2013 8:57 am

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