Ever come up to an intersection and want to turn but there’s someone walking across the street. What do you do, ask lawyers?

Today San Diego Drunk Driving criminal defense attorneys are asked to examine what can happen if a DUI driver drives past someone walking in a crosswalk. Can the San Diego police lawfully stop him or her?
California Statute

California Vehicle Code, Section 21950 states:

(a)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, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b)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.

(c)The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d)Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

California Case Law

“The rule established by [Veh C. §21950] applies only under circumstances when the different courses of the vehicle and the pedestrian render it dangerous for both to proceed on their respective ways without delay.” Giles v. Happely (1954) 123 Cal. App. 2d 894, 896. Restated: “Questions of right of way arise between two users of the highway only when there is danger of a collision between them if both proceed on their respective ways without delay.” Id. at 898, quoting Mitrovitch v. Graves (1938) 25 Cal. App. 2d 649, 654, 655. “[W]hen a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk is proceeding beyond the path of the approaching vehicle so that no interference between them is reasonably to be expected, the driver need not wait and yield the right of way.” Id. at 897. “[I]f a driver, after having allowed a pedestrian in a crosswalk to proceed in front of him and reach a place of safety out of the way of his automobile, with no apparent further danger of conflict between them, may then proceed to drive across and through said crosswalk and he need not wait until the pedestrian has cleared the entire roadway.” Id. at 896, 897. “It is equally clear that a driver, after having allowed a pedestrian to proceed undisturbed and unhurried in front of him and to reach a place safely out of the way of his automobile, with no apparent further danger of conflict between them, may proceed.” People v. McLachlan (1939) 36 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 754, 758.

In Giles, Plaintiff reached the center of the boulevard and stopped on the double white line. Giles at 899. Defendant drove across the intersection at about 25 miles per hour, with the left side of his car approximately three feet south of the center line that Plaintiff was standing on. Id. After the front of Defendant’s car had passed Plaintiff, Plaintiff turned back and with his right elbow struck the rear view mirror on the left side of Defendant’s car, which injured Plaintiff. Id. The Court of Appeals confirmed the Superior Court that Defendant was not negligent under Veh. C §21950 (then Veh. C §560). Id.

In every case where a court held Defendant in violation of Veh. C §21950 and thus at fault, liable or guilty, the Defendant actually struck the pedestrian. See Van Antwerp v. Smith (1940) Cal App 39 Cal App 2d 458, 460; People v. Lett (1947) 77 Cal. App. 2d 917, 919.

The wording of Veh. C §21950, providing for pedestrians’ right-of-way at crosswalks, indicates that the statute was intended to apply to those situations where a pedestrian unexpectedly asserts his right-of-way in an intersection at a time when the vehicle is so close that it is virtually impossible to avoid an accident. See Spann v. Ballesty (1969) 276 Cal App 2d 754. And Veh. C §21950 does not require the driver to anticipate a pedestrian who had safely crossed in front of him would suddenly reverse his course and again step into path of vehicle. See Parsekyan v. Thompson (1962) 208 Cal App 2d 848.

The cases that discuss Veh. C §21950 and find Defendant in violation, are cases where Defendant actually struck the pedestrian.

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