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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, on average, a pedestrian is injured in a traffic crash every eight minutes. In addition, studies show that there is confusion among pedestrians and drivers when determining who has the right of way at intersections. This confusion, along with other problems, likely contributes to the high number of pedestrian injuries and deaths from auto accidents.

Pedestrian and Driver Confusion about the Right of Way

According to a Transportation Research Board study, less than half of the drivers and pedestrians who were studied knew whether a driver or pedestrian has the right of way at intersections without marked crosswalks. Even at intersections where all crossings are marked, over 90 percent of the pedestrians knew they have the right of way, but less than 65 percent of the drivers knew they must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.

Recent research from the University of California, Berkeley, also emphasizes that right-of-way confusion is an issue in California. The Berkeley study found that both drivers and pedestrians are unsure about the right of way, and also that driver confusion in particular creates trouble for pedestrians who may know they have the right of way but cannot rely on drivers to consistently yield.

California Drivers Must Yield to Pedestrians

The California Motor Vehicle Code states that the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

According to the California Driver Handbook, a crosswalk is the part of the roadway set aside for pedestrian traffic. A pedestrian is a person travelling by foot, in a wheelchair or on a conveyance such as roller skates or a skateboard. A person riding a bicycle is not a pedestrian. Most intersections have crosswalks even if there are not painted lines on the streets, and crosswalks can even be in the middle of blocks.

Unfortunately, 620 pedestrians were killed in California traffic crashes in 2008 (and even today over 4,000 occur nationally), and pedestrians will continue to be at risk until drivers realize they must yield to and look out for them, especially at unmarked crosswalks. Additionally, in the experience of Northern California personal injury attorney Jack Bloxham, police rarely report in favor of pedestrians when investigating auto crashes involving pedestrians.

For this reason, it is especially important to seek medical attention and contact a reputable personal injury attorney if you have been involved in a pedestrian accident. A lawyer experienced in handling pedestrian accident cases can clear up confusion about the law and discuss any legal claims you may have.

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The Injury Law Center - Law Offices of Jack Bloxham is a personal injury plaintiff law firm that represents clients in negligence and wrongful death litigation related to motor vehicle accidents of all kinds in the Greater Bay Area of Northern California; most notably in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, and Solano County. The Injury Law Center has offices in San Jose, Walnut Creek, Fremont - Hayward, and Oakland. If you are handicapped and unable to come to one of our offices we will come to you. We're usually just minutes away if you live in San Jose, San Francisco, Pittsburg, Richmond, Dublin, Concord, Fairfield, Benicia, Vallejo, Los Gatos, Napa, Pleasanton, Livermore, Antioch, Walnut Creek, Hayward, Fremont, Union City, Santa Cruz, San Mateo or other nearby Bay Area town or city.