My conversation with an LAPD officer on the "rules of the road" for driving around skateboarders

Being concerned about our kids skateboarding, and wondering what the rules & laws are for drivers, I asked an LAPD Sr. Lead Officer, for our area, to offer her insight. (Please be mindful that a driver should NEVER leave the scene of an accident, even if the driver is not at fault. I believe that is a serious violation of the law.) - MB

“As far as what protections the driver's have if they hit a skateboarder, it is of course always dependent on the nature of the situation and the collision.  However if a driver is following the rules of the road and they strike a skateboarder who is not following the rules of the road, it is [LAPD’s] understanding that in that situation the driver would be found not at fault.  However, this is very dependent on the nature of the situation.  Often times a collision between a vehicle and a pedestrian is the result of fault by both parties, ie: vehicles failing to complete a full stop at a stop sign and pedestrians stepping into traffic before it is safe to do so etc.  So [LAPD] cannot tell you for certain that it would go one way or the other, however just because the accident is between a vehicle and pedestrian the vehicle is not automatically found at fault. 

As far as the skateboarders, we had been presented with a bit of a conundrum up until recently due to the fact that the California Vehicle Code (which is the code we follow for traffic enforcement) has sections for vehicles, for bicycles, for motorcycles and for pedestrians, but there is nothing specifically worded for skateboarders.  After a long discussion with our South Traffic Division, we have come to the conclusion that since skateboarders were not addressed specifically in the Vehicle Code, that we will now treat the skateboarders as pedestrians.  This being said, we have two sections that we are citing the boarders for - one involves being in the roadway obstructing traffic and the other involves being in the roadway but failing to remain along the furthest right or left edge. 

In addition there is a section which states that anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet while riding his or her bicycle or skateboard.  So we have been citing for that section as well.  All of that being said we are warning these kids (as we ticket them) to spread the word to all of their friends that we will be citing mercilessly in the San Pedro Area.  We will be attempting to run Taskforces specifically directed at skateboards, every schedule period.  We are spreading the word to our patrol officers to also cite the boarders that they see.  We are hoping that the tickets will dissuade the kids from continuing to behave in this manner and will bring some awareness to the parents as well.

Please advise your friends and neighbors that although they may not be found immediately at fault, it is still their responsibility to drive with the necessary care and caution.  I know, as frustrated as we all are with the kids, no one actually wants to hit anyone.”

“… just because these kids are skateboarding [in an unsafe manner] that doesn't excuse the driver's from taking the necessary care and caution to avoid striking them.  According to the vehicle code, as drivers we have a responsibility to look out for the safety of pedestrians since a vehicle does a lot more damage to the human body than the other way around.  If you can also mention that parents who know that their kids skateboard, should talk to them about the kinds of skateboarding behavior that they are engaging in.  And make sure that they have purchased their kids the proper head gear.”

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