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What “The Freedom to Walk” Act means for California drivers

On Behalf of | Feb 3, 2023 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Based on the number of pedestrians crossing busy streets in any place that’s convenient for them – with or without a crosswalk — you’d think jaywalking was legal in California. In fact, it just became legal (at least in some cases) on Jan.1 of this year.

Anyone who jaywalks isn’t automatically breaking the law. However, law enforcement officers can give them a citation “when a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.”

Some Californians were more affected by jaywalking stops and tickets than others

The change in the law came about not just to make life more convenient for pedestrians. Those who advocated for the law, which was named The Freedom to Walk Act, argued that the law against jaywalking was overused by police as a pretext to stop people – particularly people of color and lower-income people.

The $200+ jaywalking tickets also were an outsize burden on those lower-income pedestrians. To make matters even worse, they’re more likely to have their own vehicles and to live and work in communities without as many crosswalks as in other areas. The state assembly member who introduced the legislation said, “When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians.”

As noted, the law doesn’t give pedestrians the right to cross the street in a way that endangers others. However, unfortunately, that’s still going to occur – and probably more frequently. A driver who has to stop suddenly when a person walks into the street unexpectedly can in turn endanger other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and others.

If you’ve suffered injuries in a crash caused by a jaywalker or a driver trying to avoid hitting them, determining who’s at fault for the collision can be complicated. It’s wise to seek legal guidance before you settle with an insurer or any other party.