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Most of us define a pedestrian as someone who is walking on a sidewalk, crosswalk or roadway. This is a true statement. But according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, a pedestrian is also a person who is using a conveyance such as a skateboard, roller skates or scooter. A disabled person is considered to be a pedestrian if he or she is using a wheelchair for transportation or rides a tricycle or quadricycle. Bicycle riders, on the other hand, are not considered to be pedestrians.

The reason California is specific about pedestrians and is concerned for their welfare is because about 22 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state are pedestrians. Thus, there are laws designed with their safety in mind. Also, this is a serious issue, and it is notably the subject of many claims and lawsuits.

From a legal perspective, most intersections have a pedestrian crosswalk even if lines aren’t painted on the street. Mid-road crosswalks are not uncommon. The law states that pedestrians have the right-of-way in marked or unmarked crosswalks in California. Drivers must stop if another vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk to allow a pedestrian to cross. They may not stop within a crosswalk.

With the ever-increasing number of hybrid and electric cars on the roads, it’s important for drivers of those vehicles to be even more aware of pedestrians and their right-of-way because of their lack of engine noise. Blind pedestrians are particularly at risk in these situations. The DMV notes that as a matter of course, if a blind person pulls his or her cane and steps away from an intersection, it means the vehicle can proceed through the crosswalk. If any pedestrian makes eye contact with a driver, it means yield to the person crossing the street because he or she is ready to step off the curb.

Source: California Department of Motor Vehicles, “California Driver Handbook – Laws and Rules of the Road” accessed Feb. 03, 2015


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