Woodland Hills personal injury lawyer Barry P. Goldberg has noticed an increase in auto v. pedestrian accidents in the San Fernando Valley, particularly in Canoga Park and Woodland Hills. In fact, Mr. Goldberg wrote articles about the most dangerous intersections in both Canoga Park and Woodland Hills. The statistics continue to climb for pedestrian accidents on the most dangerous street in the San Fernando Valley, Sherman Way. Although there are many possible causes for these accidents, it may be because there is real confusion in the public about when you can legally and safely enter a crosswalk.
Is it only safe when it says “Walk” or when the little green “walking man” is displayed?
Committing a Crosswalk Crime?
In the past, it was simply illegal to enter a crosswalk while any countdown signal was displayed. That is not to say that the police were ticketing pedestrians for entering a crosswalk during a countdown— they were not. Moreover, as an injury accident law firm, we have examined literally hundreds of traffic collision reports involving pedestrians. With our combined over 60 years of attorney experience, we have never seen a pedestrian even faulted for an accident while that pedestrian is within the confines of a crosswalk at the time of impact.
The drivers in these situations are always require to yield to pedestrian traffic for obvious reasons. As I was taught in drivers training, an auto is free to drive through a crosswalk as long as there are no pedestrians on the side of the street in which you are passing through the crosswalk. The minute a pedestrian passes the halfway across an intersection, you must not proceed through the crosswalk. Not only will you be ticketed, but it is unsafe for a vehicle to come that close to a pedestrian under any circumstances.
Now enter Assembly Bill 390 recently signed into law which will amend Vehicle Code Section 21456. Under existing law, a pedestrian facing a “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal. Existing law makes a violation of this provision a crime.
This bill authorizes a pedestrian facing a flashing “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised hand” symbol with a “countdown” signal to proceed so long as he or she completes the crossing before the display of the steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol. This is how we act anyway and the police do not enforce the “crime” if the pedestrian completes the crossing in time.
NEW PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK LAW
The new language states, as follows:
“If a pedestrian control signal showing the words “WALK” or “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or other approved symbol is in place, the signal shall indicate as follows:
(a) A “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol means a pedestrian facing the 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) A flashing “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol with a “countdown” signal indicating the time remaining for a pedestrian to cross the roadway means a pedestrian facing the signal may start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal but must complete the crossing prior to the display of the steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol when the “countdown” ends.
(c) A steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol or a flashing “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” without a “countdown” signal indicating the time remaining for a pedestrian to cross the roadway means a pedestrian facing the signal shall not start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who started the crossing during the display of the “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol and who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the steady “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.”
In our estimation, this law is not likely to reduce the rising number of auto v. pedestrian accidents in the San Fernando Valley. It is, however, a clarification of the pedestrians’ rights and duties when crossing the street. Hopefully, this law is a first step of the Legislature to addressing the auto v. pedestrian accident problem. Perhaps, we should adopt the Hawaii model and make it illegal to be texting while crossing the street?