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Unmarked crosswalks and pedestrian safety

Unmarked crosswalks

Pedestrians share busy California roads with motorists and truck drivers each day. Yet, our roadway infrastructure often favors motorists over pedestrians.

Crosswalks are an essential part of pedestrian safety. Some are regulated by timed signals and are marked with signs and lights. Pedestrians and drivers may not always be aware of how dangerous unmarked crosswalks can be.

What are unmarked crosswalks?

Unmarked crosswalks are areas where pedestrians are legally allowed to cross the street. They are not marked by paint, lights nor signs, however. Many unmarked crosswalks are located at intersections, which makes crossing the street especially dangerous. Crosswalks are usually only painted in areas where there is high foot traffic, such as in business districts, universities and roads that intersect paths designated for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Under California vehicle code (Section 21950(a)), drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who are using both marked and unmarked crosswalks. In addition, drivers are required to slow down and exercise due care when approaching a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

Are unmarked crosswalks more dangerous than marked crosswalks?

A study on crosswalk safety was conducted in 1972 by a researcher named Bruce Herms. His research, which was conducted in San Diego, concluded that more pedestrians are injured at marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks. That’s because pedestrians often had a false sense of security at marked crosswalks and were confident that motorists would stop to let them cross. Herm's assumption that pedestrians feel more confident about crossing at marked intersections is mere speculation, however.

Despite his theory being debunked by other studies, many traffic engineers are reluctant to install marked crosswalks in many areas under the assumption that they could harm pedestrians. This leaves many areas where people get around on foot neglected.

The problem with unmarked crosswalks is that many drivers don’t recognize them as legitimate areas for pedestrians to cross the street. So, some drivers fail to stop and allow pedestrians to cross.

What makes pedestrians so vulnerable?

Pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users. Motorists are protected by vehicle frames, airbags and seatbelts. Pedestrians are not. Motorcyclists and bicyclists often wear helmets and other protective gear. Pedestrians don’t. That makes them more likely than others on the road to sustain severe or fatal injuries when hit by a car or truck.

Pedestrian deaths made up roughly 25 percent of all traffic fatalities in California during 2018. Pedestrians that survive being hit by cars often sustain broken bones, severe head injuries, spinal injuries, crushed limbs and paralysis.

If you’re a pedestrian who was injured after being hit by a negligent driver, it's critical that you speak to an experienced Walnut Creek pedestrian accident attorney at Clancy & Diaz to learn about your legal rights. Our legal team has built a solid reputation for helping injured people maximize their compensation since 2007. We serve clients in Walnut Creek and in the greater Bay Area.

Contact our law firm to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation.

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