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Matt:

Would you please clarify the "Pedestrian has the right of way" rule before I kill somebody? If I get to an intersection in my car and a pedestrian is waiting, I let the pedestrian cross. If another pedestrian arrives at the intersection before I have a chance to go, does this pedestrian have the right of way too, or is it my turn to go? I could envision a endless stream of pedestrian arrivals all getting there after I did preventing me from moving. Until I get an answer, tell the elves they're in danger.

-- Impatient East Coast Driver

Would somebody go down to the corner and check for Impatient and let him know he has his answer? He'll be the one at the stop line with four flat tires and vines growing over the hood. Respect for pedestrians hardly exists these days, but just because there's a pedestrian somewhere in the neighborhood doesn't mean you have to stop and wait. But stop. Wait. Before you get too big a sense of power, here's the law.

As well as any of this can be put down on paper, the CA Vehicle Code section 21950 covers most of it. Once the pedestrian is off the curb and into the crosswalk (marked or unmarked), drivers have to yield. Pedestrians standing on the curb wondering whether it's worth their life to cross the street don't count. You don't have to wait for them to make up their minds. Jaywalkers? Crosswalk walkers who charge across the street into a stream of traffic? They have to yield to auto traffic, though obviously drivers have to make some effort to avoid them. One exception to the off-the-curb rule is if there is a pedestrian safety island between the two directions of traffic, like on El Cajon Boulevard. If the pedestrian can reach the island before they reach you, you can proceed.

Unfortunately, most of these rules come into play as guidelines in court. In real life, everybody is supposed to look out for everybody else's well-being based on an evaluation of the immediate situation. You can never assume everybody else knows the law. And no, you can't even nudge those irritating teenagers who don't have their own cars but know they can exercise some power by crossing the street as slowly as possible and with way too much attitude.

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