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What pedestrians should know about California’s new jaywalking law

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | Injuries |

Even though it might have seemed like crossing the street outside of a crosswalk or intersection controlled by traffic signs or lights in California has always been legal, it hasn’t. That changed, at least to some degree on Jan. 1 of this year when the “The Freedom to Walk” act took effect.

Under the new law, crossing the street anywhere you choose is no longer automatically cause for citation unless a “reasonably careful person” would realize they could be in “immediate danger.” That means if you need to cross the street where there’s no intersection and there are no vehicles within sight in either direction, you can legally cross.

Why were people advocating for this law?

Those who were pushing state legislators to pass this law argued that it was too often used by law enforcement officers as an excuse to stop and question people. People of color and low-income people, they argued, were the ones most likely to be stopped.

These are often the same people, they argued, who are less likely to have cars and to live and work in areas with few crosswalks. Further, jaywalking citations costing upwards of $200 present a serious financial burden on many of those cited.

The state legislator noted that “when expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources….”

Pedestrians can still receive citations

The law, as we noted, doesn’t mean that pedestrians can cross the street anywhere they choose and expect vehicles to be able to stop for them. It’s still wise to cross only at marked crosswalks and controlled intersections when at all possible. Even then, unfortunately, too many drivers don’t watch out for pedestrians and cyclists as they should.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries while walking, running or biking at the hands of a driver, you could be looking at years of medical bills and other expenses. Of course, too many car vs. pedestrian or cyclist crashes end up being fatal. It’s wise to seek legal guidance before signing any kind of settlement to help ensure that you get the justice and compensation you deserve.


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