Pedestrian Safety 101

Published on 11/16/2021 by Monica Burneikis

In our recent post about the most dangerous intersections in Oakland, we cited the alarming reality that, “[a]ccording to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 40% of all car accidents occur at intersections, accounting for both automobiles as well as bicycle and pedestrian accidents.” 

While California’s Vehicle Code, “CHAPTER 5 Pedestrians’ Rights and Duties 21950” states, “[t]he driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection,” it also reminds us that, “[t]his section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety.” 

7 Pedestrian Safety Tips to Prevent an Accident or Fatality 

Observing these seven pedestrian safety tips can go a long way towards preventing involvement in an accident. That said, adhering to these safety reminders also serves as your defense if you have to hire a personal injury lawyer to support your claim in court. 

Stop, pause and look both ways before stepping off a curb or crossing the street 

“Look both ways before crossing the street” is one of the first things children learn when they begin to gain more freedom outside their homes. The concept is also written into CA Traffic Codes: 

No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. 

While it is true that a pedestrian has the right-of-way, even the most careful and observant driver requires time to perceive a pedestrian that is going to step into the roadway and to react in time to bring their vehicle safely to a stop.  If a pedestrian walks out in front of a moving car, the driver may not have enough time to perceive and react to the pedestrian, and bring their vehicle to a stop in time to avoid an accident. In this situation, not only will the pedestrian risk suffering an injury, but the pedestrian will likely be found to be at-fault for stepping into the roadway when a vehicle was close enough to be a hazard. It is for this reason that pedestrians have a duty to stop, pause and look all-around before stepping off a curb or into a roadway. 

Make eye contact with drivers 

Did you know that California has strict laws about window tinting for windshields and driver’s side windows? This is because safety officials understand how important it is for drivers to make eye contact - especially when meeting at intersections. 

The same is true for pedestrians. By paying attention to drivers and looking for their eye contact, a pedestrian will have a better idea of whether or not a driver actually sees them.  If you suspect a driver does not see you, or if you see that the driver is looking in the opposite direction, a pedestrian must assume the driver either cannot or has not seen them. In this situation, the pedestrian should wait to cross the roadway until the vehicle has passed. It takes a few seconds to wait for a vehicle to pass by, which is time well spent when considering the potential consequences of an accident. 

Always use a crosswalk (or stop light/stop sign intersection) when available 

Forgo the temptation to “save time” or “take a shortcut” by crossing before you get to the crosswalk or cutting the crosswalk short. Pedestrians who do so have a hard time obtaining any damages or reimbursement for car or bike-related injuries if there is evidence they did not use the crosswalk from start to finish.  

Similarly, while the crosswalk is a form of “protection,” it’s essential that you always use any available buttons and only cross when the “walk sign” is flashing and nowhere near the final countdown numbers. 

If there are not any crosswalks, wait to cross at corners, intersections, stop lights or stop signs. These are all locations where drivers are more likely to slow down and pay closer attention to their surroundings. 

Finally, even if you are crossing on a green light and within a marked pedestrian crosswalk, do not assume a driver is going to see you and stop. Keep looking in all directions as you cross the street. While it seems inconceivable, very often, drivers simply do not see pedestrians, even when pedestrians are mid-way through an intersection. Be alert at all times and keep a lookout. Doing so could save your life. 

Do not text and walk at the same time 

All over the Bay Area, we notice teens and adults walking while texting. This is an incredibly dangerous activity. Just as texting is a leading cause of distracted driving-related incidents, texting while walking is also a leading cause of pedestrian-related accidents because it causes pedestrians to: 

  • Become unaware of their surroundings 
  • Step into a crosswalk or begin crossing a road without thoroughly looking 
  • Trip and fall into oncoming vehicular or bicycle traffic 

Pedestrians looking at their phones are more prone to personal injury due to walking into signs, buildings or stepping into clearly marked holes/trenches. Sadly, women and children on their phones are also more vulnerable to injury because they become a target for predators who take advantage of their distractions and sneak up on them. 

If you are walking, please keep your phone safely tucked away (or use it only to listen to your favorite music or podcast) and save screen viewing for when you arrive safely at your destination. 

Always walk facing oncoming traffic 

If you are walking along a major roadway or heavily trafficked street, it is always best to walk facing oncoming traffic. This is the opposite law from biking, where bikes have to observe the same traffic laws as vehicles. 

You have a better chance of moving out of the way if a car is swerving, drifting or begins heading towards if you can see it coming.   

Use sidewalks whenever possible 

If there are sidewalks available, use them. The curb serves as an added protection or buffer between you and moving vehicles. If they are not available, walk facing oncoming traffic as far to the left as possible to maximize the distance between you and passing vehicles. 

Never sacrifice pedestrian safety by running or darting into traffic 

Never run or dart into traffic. Your rights are not protected if you disregard safety and traffic laws. In worst-case scenarios, you may even find that doing so makes you a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit because your reckless actions could lead to an accident that causes harm to others. 

Also, never assume you can outpace an oncoming car and run across the street. You just never know, and any random event - like tripping and falling - can cause a major injury or fatality.  

Were you or someone you love recently involved in an accident while observing these pedestrian safety 101 guidelines? Schedule a consultation with Burneikis Law. We work diligently to get victims of personal injuries the compensation settlements they deserve without stressful and unnecessary courtroom drama. Call Burneikis Law for a free consultation at (510) 328-3238. 

Monica Burneikis - Oakland Personal Injury Attorney
Monica Burneikis has been an accident and personal injury lawyer for over 15 years. She knows what it takes to fight with insurance companies in order to obtain maximum compensation for injury victims and their families.
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