In 2015, there were 5,376 pedestrian fatalities nationwide (15 percent of the total number of traffic fatalities). According to the Governors Highway Safety Association’s Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State report, there were 405 pedestrian fatalities in California in the first six months of 2015. Pedestrian deaths were down 11.4 percent in 2016 with the preliminary numbers showing 359 deaths in the same time period. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Traffic Safety Facts for 2015 (published in February 2017) reports that there was a total of 742 pedestrian fatalities for the year. Looking at the total population of California and the total number of traffic fatalities, these deaths equal 23.4 percent of the total. The state has the highest number of pedestrian fatalities in the country. Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Jose are three of the top ten cities in the United States and had a combined total of 143 deaths in 2015.
The California Vehicle Code has several provisions for pedestrians found in Division 11, Chapter 5. A person facing a circular green traffic signal may walk across a roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk but must yield the right-of-way to vehicles and not enter the roadway unless directed by a pedestrian control signal (see California Vehicle Code 21451). Marked crosswalks may utilize pedestrian control signals that say “Walk,” “Wait,” or “Don’t Walk.” The statute states that when the “wait” or “don’t walk” control signals are flashing, only people already in the crosswalk may continue walking. No one new may enter the crosswalk. This also includes pedestrian signals that use the symbols of a walking person (“walk”) or an upraised hand (“don’t walk”) (see California Vehicle Code 21456). Pedestrians are prohibited from leaving a curb when he or she may walk into the path of a moving vehicle that is close enough to be an immediate hazard (see California Vehicle Code 21950). When crossing a roadway somewhere other than a marked crosswalk or in a pedestrian tunnel, a person must give the right-of-way to vehicles (see California Vehicle Code 21954). People crossing in a place other than using an overhead crossing or pedestrian tunnel must give right-of-way to vehicles (see California Vehicle Code 21953). When walking outside a residential or business district, a person must remain as close to the edge of the road closest to his or her left-hand and on the right-hand edge if no other safe place is available (see California Vehicle Code 21956).
The California Department of Motor Vehicles has a webpage devoted to safety for walkers. It contains the rules of the road, tips on safe behaviors, and links to various state and federal fact sheets and programs. The Department of Public Health has created the California Pedestrian Safety Program the promotes walking for health and outlines safety risks and what to do in the event of a pedestrian collision. California has declared September to be Pedestrian Safety Month. The state provides funding for safety equipment including reflective arm bands and better equipment for crossing guards.