Is jaywalking legal in California? Most individuals associate traffic violations with the act of speeding or reckless driving. Conversely, additional offenses will hand you a ticket, including running a stop sign or a red light.
Pedestrians illegally crossing the road is also a traffic offense known as jaywalking. Jaywalking is illegal in most states, even though it may not seem like a significant offense. Jaywalking is a violation of the law and may result in payments of fines.
Jaywalking is commonly used to describe pedestrians crossing a street or a road in an unsafe manner or undesignated areas.
It seems like a minor offense but has severe consequences for drivers and pedestrians alike. Let’s learn more about the jaywalking laws in California.
Is Jaywalking Legal in California?
Yes, jaywalking has been legal in California since January 1, 2023, when the California Freedom to Walk Act legalized jaywalking. This marked the repeal of one of the nation’s most stringent legislations, which had prohibited the practice.
Pedestrians may cross the street without receiving a penalty at any other place other than crosswalks and intersections. However, jaywalking is not without its regulations, and individuals wishing to cross the street should prioritize their safety.
California’s New Jaywalking Law Explained
Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco authored California’s most recent pedestrian safety measure, which reduces the legality of jaywalking in most circumstances.
Primarily, Ting labored on this legislation due to his steadfast conviction that the alteration was considerably overdue.
As many had suspected, the current regulations regarding jaywalking mainly targeted and discriminated against minorities.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Freedom to Walk Act (AB 2147) in September. It eliminates one of the most stringent regulations regarding jaywalking in the nation.
Before, jaywalking could result in a traffic officer fining you up to $250. The only instance in which officers may stop and fine a pedestrian is when they notice there is a chance of an accident happening.
Advocates argue that it benefits pedestrians and low-income residents of color who face a higher likelihood of receiving citations for jaywalking. This is compared to their counterparts residing in affluent, predominantly white communities.
Additionally, some have asserted that implementing the new regulation will deter motorists from abusing pedestrians because they believe their vehicles always have the right of way.
The Freedom to Walk Act (AB 2147) went into effect in 2023 and permitted pedestrians to jaywalk.
This bill amended Section 21955 of the California Vehicle Code. Furthermore, this implies that an individual is responsible for ensuring their safety.
However, pedestrians must still exercise caution when crossing the street, and this regulation does not address the persistent safety issues that occur on our roads and streets and place pedestrians in danger.
Why Do People Jaywalk?
Individuals will jaywalk the same way a driver overspeeds. Pedestrians jaywalk mostly in slow-moving traffic or empty streets. Mostly, they assume they are safe when in the following situations:
When in a hurry: A person strolling in a hurry may decide to jaywalk to get to a meeting or event more quickly.
The crosswalk is far. Sometimes, the crosswalk may be a few blocks from where you are. In some places, the crosswalks are not even there.
This leads to pedestrians crossing the road where they are as it’s much more convenient, which may lead to accidents.
When a pedestrian wishes to reach a specific location, the nearest marked intersection may be several blocks away.
They may encounter difficulties locating a public crossing that provides access to their desired destination. This may cause pedestrians to take shorter routes, predisposing them to accidents.
- It’s a minor offense: Certain people practice jaywalking due to their lack of concern regarding its significance. They are ignorant of the dangers of crossing the street without a crosswalk.
- Distraction: Inattentive walking is on the rise. as more individuals utilize their mobile devices and maps for navigation. People with their phones out while strolling around may be oblivious to their surroundings, putting them in jeopardy of jaywalking, car accidents, or other imminent dangers.
- Under the influence: It is possible that intoxicated pedestrians will be more inclined to disregard a marked crosswalk to cross the road.
- Someone else has done it: Most people occasionally cross the street because they have seen someone else do it. This is especially common in children and teens.
- They are new in the area: This is notably prevalent among pedestrians. This is because they may be unfamiliar with the local crosswalks and traffic regulations, putting their safety and others at risk.
Injured as a Pedestrian in California?
If a pedestrian is involved in an accident, the fault is examined case by case in California. Jaywalking is no longer enough to establish negligence, meaning no case is based on negligence.
The motorist must now demonstrate that the pedestrian jaywalked when a reasonably vigilant individual would have realized the chances of an accident happening to avoid it.
A pedestrian partially responsible for an accident may be eligible for compensation. This is due to the comparative fault law of the jurisdiction.
Suppose, for instance, that an individual sustains an injury when hit by a vehicle while traversing the thoroughfare without employing a crosswalk. The sum of their medical expenses is $100,000.
The pedestrian consequently files a claim for personal injury against the motorist, seeking reimbursement for medical expenses. According to him, the motorist should have observed him crossing the street and slowed down.
However, the driver claims the pedestrian crossed the street while staring at his phone and failed to check for approaching vehicles. A jury may determine that the pedestrian pays only half the amount for the medical expense.
The relative negligence of the pedestrian would consequently reduce the medical bill award from $100,000 to $50,000.
Numerous individuals believe it makes sense to reduce the criminalization of jaywalking. Many individuals cross the street without glancing, so why issue tickets for such inconsequential infractions?
Additionally, pedestrians should be able to discern when and where it is secure to cross the street.
Additionally, unjustly penalizing low-income people of color for jaywalking could have worsened the economic hardships of already disadvantaged communities.
The community was punished for the roads having fewer crosswalks and pedestrian-friendly features in the road.
Conversely, the Freedom to Walk Act does not significantly improve pedestrian safety. The California Sheriff’s Association expressed opposition to the proposal.
The opposition was because it would impede law enforcement efforts to ensure public safety while operating vehicles within the state.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately one thousand pedestrians are killed annually in traffic accidents in California.
Stay Safe on the Roads in California
Remember that crossing the street without a crosswalk remains dangerous despite implementing the new regulation.
This will ensure your safety. When traversing the street, consistently exercise caution and prudence. Maintain awareness of your surroundings.
Before crossing the road, ensure that the road is clear. This requires vigilance for bicycles, automobiles, and other vehicles; do not presume the driver is aware of your presence.
Keep others in line and exercise caution, even if you believe you have the right of way. Remember, the passenger is typically the one who sustains the severe injuries in an accident.
Despite the legalization of jaywalking in California, individuals still bear personal responsibility for their safety while traversing the street. The safest method to cross is at a crosswalk or intersection, whether marked or unmarked.
The following guidelines will assist you in crossing the street safely in California:
- Regardless of the situation, don’t run into the street. Wait until the oncoming traffic is clear before proceeding to cross the road.
- Cross on intersections or crosswalks. Before proceeding in a pedestrian control signal intersection, you must wait until the Walk sign appears. Ensure that you maintain eye contact with the driver to ensure they see you crossing.
- Do not consider yourself to have the right of way. Before crossing, ensure that all vehicles have wholly stopped, look in both directions, and make sure the cars have stopped before crossing the street.
You may be liable for an accident in which an oncoming vehicle fails to stop before hitting you after you step off the curb into traffic. This is even though California’s new rule states you were lawfully jaywalking.
This may result in the driver’s auto insurance company providing minimal or no compensation to cover the costs associated with your medical expenses and injuries.
Is jaywalking legal in California? The Freedom to Walk Act, the new California legislation concerning jaywalking, effectively safeguards pedestrians who sometimes, if not most, jaywalk without facing any form of penalty. It may also reduce the use of police tactics that have caused more harm to people of color.
However, pedestrians should also be aware of what the law prohibits and that jaywalking dangerously could result in a citation or other legal complications.
People are still required to exercise caution and wait for drivers to pass. This is even though crossing the street anywhere under the Freedom to Walk Act is permissible.