A zebra crossing is a crosswalk marked with broad white stripes giving it a look similar to zebra stripes. The high visibility of a zebra crossing is used to alert the approaching motorists that there is a crosswalk there and remind them that pedestrians have the right-of-way.
There is no law specifically address a zebra crossing, however, there is a law that expresses the rights-of-way concerning a crosswalk, including a zebra crosswalk.
California Vehicle Code 21960:
“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.”
Zebra crossings are used in places that are thought to need greater visibility than traditional crosswalks, but the right-of-way laws are the same.
The law also requires pedestrians to not step out into a crosswalk in the path of a vehicle entering the intersection or against the light. This essentially gives the motorist the right-of-way when they have a green light or no one is in the crosswalk when they enter the intersection.
Civil Liability for Zebra Crossings in California
The vehicle code establishes the rules regarding crosswalk usage and rights-of-way, but it can’t be used to determine automatic liability for a personal injury suit. This means that just because someone violated a traffic code, doesn’t that they are subsequently at fault in a personal injury case.
This is because a personal injury trial is based on negligence and not being guilty of a violation of traffic code. The systems are separate and use different standards.
A jury will look at the actions of the at-fault person and compare them to what a reasonable and prudent person would have done in the same or similar circumstance. If they felt that the at-fault person didn’t do what a reasonable person would do, then the driver is considered negligent and is liable for all injuries and damages.
When determining negligence, the jury can look at the surroundings of the crosswalk to see if the driver was on notice that there could be someone in the crosswalk when they approached. Zebra markings will actually place a greater amount to due care because a driver is more likely to see the larger and more visible zebra stripes.
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