Pedestrians are safest in crosswalks. However, crossing the street outside of a marked crosswalk is still something pedestrians do and is commonly known as jaywalking–crossing between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic signal devices or law enforcement where there is no crosswalk. California law has historically prohibited jaywalking allowing police officers to issue citations for a moving violation to pedestrians carrying a fine of up to $250.00. (California Vehicle Code section 21955).
Unfortunately, California has seen an inequitable number of jaywalking fines going to minority groups, which is part of what started the momentum behind the “Freedom to Walk” act signed in by Governor Gavin Newsom. Phil Ting, a San Francisco assembly member helped write the legislation along with fellow assembly member Laura Friedman of Glendale. Mr. Ting commented that “minority groups don’t need to be harassed by law enforcement.” Data from the California Racial Identity Profiling Act shows that Black people in San Diego are 4.3 times as likely to be cited for jaywalking as white pedestrians and 3.7 times as likely to be cited by the Los Angeles Police Department. Effective since January 1, 2023, the new law restricts police officers from stopping pedestrians for jaywalking unless “a reasonable person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power” (which would be something like a bicycle). The new act, AB-2147, also applies to pedestrians walking against a traffic light or pedestrians not walking closest to the left side of the road.
The key here is “reasonable person.” A police officer may still issue a ticket to a pedestrian that violates the laws that apply to pedestrians if they believe you are going to cause a collision.
AB-2147 was enacted to rectify the disparity of the imposition of monetary fines on minority groups and the targeting of individuals for minor infractions of the law. The changes to the law decriminalizes jaywalking and the law now can’t be used as a pretext to detain someone. But, there are still laws on the books that require pedestrians to use crosswalks, obey traffic signals and other basic traffic laws. The sad fact is that even when pedestrians follow safe practices for walking and crossing the street, including using crosswalks and obeying traffic signals, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. are high. 2022 was a record-breaking year for pedestrian fatalities with an estimated 7,485 pedestrian deaths in the United States, the most in four decades. San Francisco saw 13 pedestrians killed in 2021, and on average more than 500 are severely injured each year. So while we support the goal behind AB-2147 to end targeting of racial minorities and low-income communities, we believe that whenever or wherever you are walking you need do whatever you can to stay safe and stay visible to cars. We support Vision Zero and we won’t stop advocating for pedestrian safety until we see ZERO pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities each year.
If you or a loved one wishes to speak with a pedestrian accident lawyer in California, please contact us. Consultations are free. We have offices in San Francisco and Paso Robles, California.