Pedestrian Safety Tips and Laws

You can greatly reduce the chances of getting injured as a pedestrian if you follow these simple safety tips.

General Safety Tips

  • Be predictable. Use crosswalks. Cross or enter streets where it is legal to do so.
  • Watch for turning cars at intersections.
  • When in a crosswalk and one car has stopped, be watchful that all other cars also stop.
  • No vehicle can stop in an instant. At 30 m.p.h. on dry, level pavement, a driver needs at least 90 feet to stop.
  • Make it easy for drivers to see you – dress in light colors and wear reflective material.
  • Wear light-colored clothing if walking at dawn, at dusk, or after dark. Even better, wear reflective tape (placed diagonally across the back) and carry a flashlight.
  • Do not drink alcohol and walk near traffic.
  • Be wary. Most drivers are nice people, but don’t count on them paying attention. Watch out – make eye contact to be sure they see you!
  • Use extra caution when crossing multiple lane, higher speed streets. 

Safety Tips for Children

Pedestrian injuries among children ages 6-12 mainly occur from collisions with a car in the middle of the block and on busy streets. Many parents overestimate their children’s street-crossing ability. The truth is that many elementary-school-aged children still don’t understand traffic signals and patterns and can confuse left and right when crossing a street. Also, adult drivers often incorrectly assume that a child always will yield the right-of-way.

  • Supervise young children and do not leave them alone to play, especially near a street or the driveway.
  • Make sure that the children’s play area is at least 200 feet from any dangerous area (such as a street, driveway, a vacant lot, or water). If it is within 200 feet, the play area should be fenced.
  • Obey the school safety patrol, crossing guard, or police officer when walking near a school.
  • Teach children to cross streets at a corner, use crosswalks (whenever possible), and obey the traffic signals. Teach them to check for approaching vehicles before crossing even with the green light or “walk” sign on.
  • Make sure children under age 10 are supervised when crossing the street. You may also need to supervise older children, especially when they cross streets with heavy traffic or more than two lanes.
  • Teach children to look left-right-left again before crossing a street and to keep looking as they cross. Practice this behavior with them until they master it.
  • Teach children to walk facing oncoming traffic if no sidewalks are available.
  • Make sure that doors leading to the outside of the house, including garage doors, cannot be opened by young children. This is to prevent children from getting out of the house unnoticed by their parents and being injured in traffic.
  • As a driver, take extra care to look out for children who might enter the road unexpectedly. Children are not able to judge distances and vehicle speeds accurately.


Pedestrian Safety Laws

The following are some key sections from the California Vehicle Code (CVC) pertaining to drivers and pedestrians, with a brief explanation of each.

21950(a) CVC – Right-of-Way at Crosswalks

The 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.

This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. 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. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Crosswalks serve to guide pedestrians across the street. Motorists should always look out for pedestrians in the roadway when they see the bright, white or yellow lines of a crosswalk. Pedestrians should also take notice of approaching vehicles.

21951 CVC – Vehicles Stopped for Pedestrians

When a vehicle is stopped at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway, vehicles approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

A marked crosswalk only serves to guide pedestrians across the street. Just because one vehicle stops does not ensure other vehicles will do the same.

21954(a) CVC – Pedestrians Outside Crosswalk

Every pedestrian upon a roadway, except those traveling within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles in the roadway that are near enough to constitute an immediate hazard.

When crossing a street, pedestrians should stop at the edge of the road and look left, right, then left again before proceeding. When the roadway is clear, begin crossing while looking over your shoulder for turning vehicles; always check for traffic while crossing and yield to oncoming traffic.

22106 CVC – Starting Parked Vehicles or Backing

No person shall start a vehicle that is stopped, standing, or parked on a highway, nor shall any person back a vehicle on a highway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.

When emerging from a driveway or alley, motorists must stop prior to proceeding onto the roadway and must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on the sidewalk.

21453(b) CVC – Right Turn on Red Light

A driver, after stopping for a steady circular red signal, may turn right. However, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to traffic using the cross street.

Motorists will usually be looking away from the corner and toward oncoming traffic as they attempt to turn and merge with traffic on the crossing street. Pedestrians must always look for turning vehicles before stepping off the curb. Make sure that any driver making a right turn sees you. If you are uncertain, wait until the vehicle passes, look again and then cross safely.

21456 CVC – Walk, Wait, or Don’t Walk

(a) A pedestrian facing a “WALK” signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal, but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.

(b) No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal while the “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” symbol is showing.

It is important to pay attention and follow the direction of traffic signals. Pedestrians need to wait until the “WALK” signal is showing before crossing. Do not begin crossing the street when a flashing “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” signal is showing.

21955 CVC – Crossing Between Controlled Intersections

Pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or police officers, except within a crosswalk.

Crosswalks and pedestrian signals are strategically placed throughout to facilitate the safe and orderly movement of vehicles and pedestrian traffic. Whenever possible, cross at intersections, preferably in marked crosswalks. Avoid jaywalking or crossing from between parked vehicles.

Motorists should stay a safe distance away from other vehicles, especially trucks and buses. A driver of a truck or bus has several “blind spots” around the vehicle where visibility is limited or obstructed. Pedestrians should be especially attentive when walking near these large vehicles.

21970 CVC – Blocking Crosswalk:  Prohibited

No person may stop a vehicle unnecessarily in a manner that causes the vehicle to block a marked or unmarked crosswalk or sidewalk.

21966 CVC – Pedestrian in Bicycle Lane

No pedestrian shall proceed along a bicycle path or lane where there is an adjacent adequate pedestrian facility.

Alameda City Ordinance Regarding Bicycling on Sidewalks

11-4.2 Riding on Sidewalk. Bicycles may be ridden on the sidewalk, except such sidewalks that pass directly in front of or adjacent to any stores, schools, or other buildings used for business purposes during the hours that such establishment is open for business.
a. Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
b. It shall be unlawful for any person to ride a bicycle in any pedestrian crosswalk at a signal controlled intersection, adjacent to any school, or one which is under the control of the school crossing guard. At all other intersections the bicyclist shall exercise due caution before entering onto the roadway. (Ord. No. 535 N.S. § 7-332; Ord. No. 1665 N.S.; Ord. No. 1713 N.S.)