Ask the Motor Cop | Confused about the crosswalk rules? You’re not alone

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Question: Jerry, my name is Dylan and I am really confused on this one. I am never sure when I can make a right turn with a pedestrian in the crosswalk. If they step off into the crosswalk way across the street approaching me, can I turn right with them being so far away?  

Or, if the pedestrian steps off into the crosswalk right in front of me and I want to turn right, must I wait until they are completely across the street and out of the crosswalk? I get different answers even from police officers. Sure would like to know the real answer. 

— Dylan 

Answer: Wow Dylan, you’re sure not alone on this one. This section of the California Vehicle Code is ambiguous and you are right because I have yet to find most any police officer who can answer this question with any authority. Clearly the purpose of this law is to protect a pedestrians’ safety. The question is, what is the intent of the original legislation? 

California Vehicle Code section 21950 states that the driver of a vehicle shall exercise all due care and take any action to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. 

So ,Dylan, here we go to get you the best answer to your question. With some research, here is the response from the Office of Assembly. The meaning of 21950 CVC was addressed to the staff of the Assembly Transportation Committee and they, with the help of the California Highway Patrol, came up with the following:  

In looking at the legislative analysis regarding this issue, it seems that the language failed to address the issue as to whether the pedestrian actually needed to be completely across the intersection prior to a vehicle passing through the crosswalk.  

Therefore, by its ambiguousness (safeguarding the safety of the pedestrian), it is left up to the “reasonable person’s standard,” and the burden Is ultimately upon the law enforcement officer who observes the incident to decide whether the proximity of the vehicle to the pedestrian violated this safety clause. 

It seems to put us back to the original question somehow. I think you will be all right just using common sense yielding to that pedestrian in the crosswalk. Should you receive a citation and disagree, go to court. I think you would be surprised how many cases are dismissed in court. Take my word for it. This comes from my own experience and that of many other officers I have observed regarding court cases.  

Drive carefully, Dylan.  

Jerry Schlund, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, is a retired Los Angeles Police Department motor officer with over 24 years riding. He was a certified radar instructor — both laser and doppler — and was instrumental in California vehicle code amendments. He was a traffic school instructor for 25 years. Have a question for the motor cop? Send your questions to [email protected]. 

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